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New Visa System Marks New Phase In India-Pakistan Relations

The border between India and Pakistan has long divided two bitterly embattled nations. Any stable relationship between them has seemed far off.

This morning, though, Pakistan's Federal Cabinet ratified four agreements with neighboring India that are aimed at improving business, trade, and travel relations.

The Pakistani Express Tribune reports that a more liberal visa system will now be in place. Those conducting in business in either country will be given multiple entry, year-long visas — a stark contrast to the harsh travel restrictions that have limited movement and business between the nations. According to India Today, "eminent businessmen" do not have to report to the police.

Students, children, and large tourist groups will also benefit from the new agreements. Indian and Pakistani senior citizens — many of whom lived through the violent 1947 Indian partition — can now merely walk across the border, no visa necessary.

The pacts were signed on Sept. 8, and deemed a "sign of friendship" by Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik.

While this "friendship" remains shaky for now, today's events may bring new hope to a region that has yet to see lasting peace.

First step, improved Indo-Pakistani business. Next step, a peaceful cricket tour.

(Sophia Jones is an intern with NPR News.)

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Sophia Jones