International call roaming for travellers between India and Pakistan may soon get restored, with the Ministry of Home Affairs keen on giving security clearances to Pakistan’s telecom companies for signing contracts with Indian telecom service providers. A meeting convened by the MHA last week discussed the issue, during which objections were raised by security agencies on the ground that it would lead to misuse and help terror groups carry out nefarious activities.
It is learnt that during the discussion, one of the suggestions was that international roaming facilities would first be extended to ‘trusted visitors’ like elected representatives and dignitaries. Sources said the MHA is also in consultation with the Telecom Ministry to come up with a Standard Operating Procedure. It was also suggested that a list of Pakistani telecom service providers be supplied to India. “We will also share details of our telecom service providers; it will done on a mutual basis,” said a senior Home Ministry official.
The MHA is also likely to start with limited roaming facilities after due diligence. Pakistan had urged India to first allow international roaming for their travellers and, if the model is successful, Indian travellers would also be able to use their SIM cards in Pakistan. Sources said the facility for Pakistani travellers would initially be limited to few cities and would only be given after verification by service providers.
It was also suggested that verification be carried out at the time of granting a visa. But security agencies fear that terror groups may smuggle unverified SIM cards, which can be misused once the agreement between telecom companies of the two nations is in place. However, MHA officials suggested that a strict verification would be carried out and telecom companies would be held accountable. The first bilateral roaming arrangement was signed between the two countries in 2004, but following several instances of misuse, the facility was discontinued.