Cross-Border Couples Rejoice as India Resumes Visa Service To Pakistanis

The Sodha Rajput community's tradition of cross-border marriages had run into hindrances after the Pulwama attack in February 2019.

Jaipur: In a move that will provide major relief, the Indian High Commission in Pakistan has granted permission to cross-border couples to apply for visas.

“We received an email [from the High Commission] saying that now we can apply for a visa,” Mahendra Singh from Khejad ka Paar in Rajasthan’s Barmer, who got married to Chagan Kunwar, a Sodha Rajput woman from Pakistan in January 2019, told The Wire.

The visa service was halted almost two years ago, when relations between India and Pakistan were strained following the Pulwama terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir in February 2019 and India’s retaliatory airstrike in Pakistan’s Balakot.

This decision forced several couples to remain separated. The Sodha Rajputs based in Pakistan’s Umerkot follow an age-old tradition of marrying their daughters to Rajput families in India’s Rajasthan.

Also Read: For These Cross-Border Couples, Strained India-Pak Ties Mean an Indefinite Separation

For the wedding ceremony, the Indian Rajput men travel to Pakistan via the Thar Express, a special passenger train from Bhagat Ki Kothi in India’s Jodhpur to Karachi Cantonment in Pakistan’s Sindh.

After the wedding, the couples try and obtain visas to return to India together.

However, due to the strained relationship between the two countries, several Pakistani brides who were married just a few days before the Pulwama attack were not able to come to India and live with their husbands.

Their husbands had alleged that the Indian government was refusing to grant these visas as it was not ready to improve relations with Pakistan.

The Wire had in September 2020 documented the plight of some cross-border couples.

The deputy high commissioner in Islamabad had told The Wire then that the borders were shut. He added that due to COVID-19, regular visa services for Pakistani nationals were suspended.

However, this time, there is also a stipulation on the mode of travel. The email from the High Commission states, “Visa issued will be valid only for the air route, and for a limited duration.”