India to consider multiple visas for SAARC journalists


India will consider granting multiple visas to journalists from SAARC nations, Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said.
Addressing South Asian Free Media Association’s (SAFMA) 8th regional conference in Amritsar in Punjab, the minister said that he would soon take up the matter to sort out multiple visas issue, the Press Trust of India reported.
He said the new Indo-Pak visa regime, which was operationalised last month, would also facilitate journalists to visit each other’s countries. The new pact is related to visitor, business and pilgrim visas and covers the facility of entering and exiting from different immigration check posts and exemption from reporting to police. The new agreement replaces a 38-year-old tardy visa regime signed in 1974 by the two countries.
In his address, Indian Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal raised the issue, saying it was of immense emotional importance. Badal also urged SAFMA to take up the issue with both the Indian and Pakistan governments. Badal also called for opening of a second trade route between India and Pakistan through Hussainiwala border, and requested Khurshid to take up the issue with his Pakistan counterparts.
In his inaugural address Badal said a second trade route on the lines of the one already existing at the Attari-Wagah border was need of the hour to give impetus to the bilateral and cultural ties. All the physical barriers need to be eliminated for promoting people to people contact and fostering goodwill, friendship and amity in the South-Asian region, Badal was quoted as saying by an official release.
Badal also pitched for development of a corridor between Sikh shrines of Dera Baba Nanak in India and Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan, and called for resolving all bottlenecks in this regard on priority basis.
The CM praised the role of SAFMA in creating a cordial atmosphere in the region, especially between India and Pakistan, besides setting the agenda for regional cooperation among SAARC countries. Media has played a proactive role as the fourth pillar of democracy and initiated the process of social and economic affinity amongst the countries of the region, he noted.
He sought cooperation from SAFMA in setting up of a South Asian Economic and Parliamentary Union, which, he said, could lead to the formation of an ‘Asian Economic Union’ on the lines of the European Economic Union. In this context, India and Pakistan could play a leading role as some remarkable progress had already been made in this direction by these two countries by opening the Attari-Wagah border for trade, Badal said.