Signalling a shift in its approach, India has changed the medical visa requirements for the Pakistani nationals who arrive in India for treatment. Now, the patients have to get a recommendation letter from the Pakistan foreign minister or the advisor on foreign affairs before applying for visa at Indian embassy.
Earlier, India had sent back 50 Pakistani children who had arrived at the invitation of an NGO under a cultural exchange programme, saying the current atmosphere was not conducive for people-to-people exchanges. This tough stance had come after the beheading of the two Indian soldiers by the Pakistani army.
The changed visa requirements were enforced in wake of chilly relations between the neighbours. With public sentiment surging against Pakistan, the Indian government is taking harsher steps.
An external affairs ministry spokesperson denied that visas have been stopped. “We have not stopped the said visas,” external affairs spokesperson Gopal Baglay said.
He said external affairs ministers, who is very active ion social media for redressing grievances, has been getting a lot of requests for medical visas.
"She was receiving requests from email and social media. In order to ascertain that these are genuine requests we have suggested that their foreign minister or foreign affairs advisor gives a recommendation letter," Baglay said.
"On social media, it is difficult to ascertain if the request is genuine. If the letter comes, we will immediately issue a visa, but we need the recommendation from the Pakistan government," he added.
Currently, a huge number of patients from neighbouring countries, including Pakistan, visit India for treatment—owing to better healthcare and world-class facilities offered by the latter. Indian government encourages medical visas as it also helps in bring in revenue.
But with relations between two neighbouring countries deteriorating, the Indian government has toughened its stance. Earlier, there were reports of visas being denied to Pakistani players to participate in tournaments here.