In the din of all the Indo-Pak bilateral chatter last month, there was one piece of news that got buried in the details. Breached by none, except a few divided families on either side of Kashmir who have been allowed the privilege since 2005, the Line of Control (LoC) will now be porous for tourists and pilgrims too. A turnaround time of forty-five days for processing a single-entry, non-extendable fifteen-day visa—no endless queues, no lengthy verifications—brings the other side closer still. Requests must be routed through designated tour operators though and groups must not exceed fifteen in number. The caveats are trivial, really, compared to the prospect of walking down Muzaffarabad’s busy, colourful lanes for the first time or holidaying in the Neelum valley, both of which would have seemed laughable but a few weeks ago.
Meanwhile, the rules for Indo-Pak visas have also been relaxed. Visas on arrival at Attari/Wagah for senior citizens, a green flag for tourist groups of up to fifty people, a flexible entry-exit route and an extended list of five places to drop anchor at in a single visit... This is one feel-good measure that promises to go the distance.