by Zamir Ahmed Awan
Pakistani visa is one of the most difficult travel documents to obtain in the world, according to Wanderlust magazine. The tough process had a direct impact on tourism, business and people-to-people exchanges. Many foreigners are unaware of true picture of Pakistan. While the older generation knows about Pakistan, the younger generation has very little idea about the country.
To make the visa process easier, the Pakistan government has introduced a series of measures, including allowing nationals of 175 countries to apply for e-visa, offering visa on arrival to 50 countries, earlier the figure was 24, and permitting approved tour operators to bring tourist groups to Pakistan.
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is ready to enter next phase, where the focus will be on industrialization and trade. Therefore more and more Chinese will travel to Pakistan. In fact, government-to-government travel was very smooth already, but private and individual businessmen were facing visa restrictions. But under new visa policy, the process has become smoother for everyone. It will boost trade and investment, as well as tourism. More interaction and enhanced people-to-people contact will bring two "Iron Brothers" closer and help understand each other more. The relations based on mutual understanding will be more robust and long lasting. The success of CPEC may become an example of BRI module and may be followed by rest of the world.
The multiple visa, long duration visa and e-visa will be more beneficial to Chinese having long-term relations with Pakistan. With the rise in marriages between Chinese and Pakistan nationals, the family visa will facilitate them in much better manner.
China gained a lot by opening to rest of world. China's development and emergence as the second-largest economy and world power was after the opening-up of China. Pakistan may learn lesson from China's experience and follow similar policies.
However, this is only first step in the right direction. A lot more is needed. Hopefully, further steps and initiatives may be launched in near future to boost cooperation and collaboration with China to enhance Chinese investment and trade with Pakistan.
Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan, Sinologist (ex-Diplomate), Non-Resident Fellow of CCG (Center for China and Globalization), National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Islamabad, Pakistan.