India to issue 3,000 visa to Pak cricket fans; 300 for VIPs

Pak cricket fans
India will issue 3,000 visas to Pakistani fans and an additional 300 visas to VIPs of that country to witness the upcoming Indo-Pak limited over cricket series beginning December 25.

For the first time, India has also agreed to issue multiple city visa to the cricket lovers of the neighbouring country provided they show tickets for the matches, travelling tickets and hotel reservation slips.

The decisions have been conveyed to Pakistan, Home Ministry sources said.

Of the 3,000 visas, 1,000 will be issued for the match to be played in New Delhi while 500 each visas will be given to those who want to cherish matches in Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Chennai and Kolkata.

Of the 300 VIP visas, 100 will be issued for the match to be played in New Delhi while 50 each VIP visas will be given for the four other matches.

The series would comprise three ODIs and two Twenty20 Internationals between December 25, 2012 and January 6, 2013.

The ODI matches will be played in Chennai, Kolkata and New Delhi and the Twenty20 games in Bangalore and Ahmedabad.

However, no Pakistani cricket fan will be allowed to cross the border on foot (the facility is available in Wagah) but can cross over by bus, train or can travel by air.

No request for change of travel plan will be entertained once visa is issued while applicants must apply for the visas before Indian High Commission in Islamabad at least seven days before their departure for India.

The decisions have come following series of meetings held by a high-level special committee comprising officials of Home Ministry and security agencies in the last one month.

Sources said extra precautions would be taken before granting visas as several Pakistanis in the past have gone missing after arriving in India to watch cricket matches.

12 Pakistani men, who came to India to watch the last India-Pakistan bilateral cricket series held in November- December 2007, did not return home and are yet to be traced.

Pakistani-American terrorist David Headley during his interrogation had said that many Lashker-e-Taiba activists had carried out recce of vital installations in Delhi including the National Defence College after having secured visas for the Indo-Pak cricket match in 2007.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his then Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani had watched the high-profile World Cup semi-final in Mohali last year.

In July, the BCCI had decided to resume cricketing ties with Pakistan by inviting the neighbouring country for a short series.

The arch-rivals have not played a bilateral series since Pakistan's tour of India in 2007 after cricket ties were snapped following the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

Home Ministry sources said the Indo-Pak landmark visa agreement, signed in September, aimed at easing travel restrictions is also expected to be operationalised before the cricket series begins.

The visa agreement, signed by then Indian External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and Interior Minister Rehman Malik in Islamabad on September 8, eases curbs on issuing visas to traders, elderly people, tourists, pilgrims, members of civil society and children.

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