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Sep 13, 2012 at 09:39am IST

J&K: India-Pak visa pact raises hope among people

Srinagar: The recent visa liberalisation pact between India and Pakistan has brought joy and hope among scores of people living in Kashmir, to meet their relatives on the other side of the border.

Muhammad Hussain Naqsbandi, 70, who has been pining to visit his close relations in Rawalpindi over the last four decades, is hopeful that he will be able to visit his relatives in Pakistan, after the two sides signed the visa liberalisation pact.

Official wrangles, security hassles and lengthy procedures discouraged him to pay a visit to Pakistan earlier. "This is a bold step that the two foreign ministers have taken. People want to go and come to meet their kin. I am mighty pleased," Naqsbandi said.

Almost every third family in Kashmir has a relation across and a compelling reason to unite after decades of separation. Retired chief engineer Ghulam Nabi Sofi recalls how his travel papers took years before he could meet up his brother in 1971 in Pakistan. His last visit in 1997 was cleared with much difficulty even though he had to attend his brother's funeral service. The fresh move has raised his hopes of reunion again.

"The decision is welcomed but there should be proper implementation on the ground, and no security paranoia should be required," Sofi said.

For the divided families who are yearning to meet their separated relatives and had to undergo a cumbersome paperwork and security filters, the easing up of visa regime has come as a huge relief after many decades of official cussedness.

"Regardless of the general pessimism in air, it is good that India and Pakistan are talking to each other rather than at each other," Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah Tweeted.

Also happy with the outcome of the meeting are trans-LoC traders, who hope banking and phone facilities will be upgraded.