x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

A small step forward

India and Pakistan ease visa restrictions in another small, but meaningful, step towards detente.

The visa accord signed on Saturday by the foreign ministers of Pakistan and India is an important step toward reconciliation between the two nuclear powers. The deal creates multiple-entry visas for business people, offers visas on arrival to those over 65, simplifies travel for individuals married to citizens of the other country, and creates a new group-travel category.

Pakistan's interior minister Rehman Malik called the pact a sign of "friendship" - a word not often used in Pakistani-Indian relations. His claim seems to owe more to enthusiasm than to realism; the disputes about Kashmir and about trials for Pakistanis implicated in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, for example, are no less thorny now than last week.

In both countries, powerful elements find advantage, political or financial, in perpetual crisis. Overcoming their influence after decades of mistrust is no easy task, but diplomats often speak of "confidence-building measures", and this accord is surely one.

Family visits, like business trips across the border, can be expected to become more numerous after this agreement. Both types of travel contribute, by their nature, to a sturdier network of personal connections. Love and money go a long way in the world.