The Hindu : States / Tamil Nadu : Puducherry home to Pakistani student Ali Hassan Raza is the first Pakistani student to enrol at Pondicherry University A Pakistani youthâ€™s dream of higher education has turned him into a symbol of people-to-people diplomacy here. The 22-year-old Ali Hassan Razaâ€™s enrolment at the Pondicherry University has made him quite the cynosure among 5,500 students in the campus, the faculty and even the local police. Ever since a car was sent to Chennai to pick him up from the airport a few days ago and a rousing reception provided at the campus by classmates and university officials, the police seem to have developed a keen interest in him if only because of the fluctuating relationship that the two neighbour-nations has shared down the years. Raza, who is the first Pakistani student to enrol at the Pondicherry University, is also one of the few Pakistani students pursuing higher education in India. Raza, son of Ahamed Raza from Al-Noor City, Pattoki in Kasur district of Pakistan, has been given admission by the UNESCO Madanjeet Singh Institute for South Asia Regional Cooperation (UNESCO MISARC), which was inaugurated recently by the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Pondicherry University. The presence of Raza, who is pursuing MA in South Asian Studies, along with 18 students from India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and other SAARC (South Asia Association of Regional Cooperation) countries in the university, is considered to be an important change in realising the dream of UNESCO Ambassador Madanjeet Singh, who founded South Asia Foundation with the aim of promoting regional cooperation and peace through education, mutual understanding and friendship among the young people of South Asia. â€œWe feel delighted to have students from all SAARC countries, including Pakistan, in our campus with great difficulty. The university has become a symbol of nursing seedlings for promoting regional cooperation and enduring friendship with all our neighbouring countries. It is a dream of Madanjeet Singh and it is being realised slowlyâ€ says J.A.K. Tareen, Vice-Chancellor, Pondicherry University, who played a leading role over the establishment of UNESCO MISARC funded by South Asia Foundation (SAF). University officials said though there was no much problem for them to rope in students from SAARC countries including Afghanistan, who were fully sponsored by SAF, they worked a lot to complete the visa formalities for the Pakistani student through various Ministries and agencies including the Ministries of External Affairs and Home. B. Mohanan Pillai, Director, UNESCO MISARC, said since the university officials faced a lot of hurdles in getting visa for the Pakistani student, which was obvious in general, it was raised at the Governing Council meeting of South Asia Foundation held in France recently. Subsequently, the SAF took it up the matter with Ministries concerned. Though Mr. Raza movements are restricted and monitored by the police, staying in India is a delightful experience for him. He feels that he has broken the deadlock over getting visa for studying in India. â€œI feel I am the luckiest Pakistani for being permitted to pursue higher studies in India, which has tremendous potential for higher education. I donâ€™t have words to describe the hospitality, affection and love shown by the Indian brethrens, professors and others. I donâ€™t feel I am too far away from my home. I feel at home here enjoying each and every moment of life,â€ Mr. Raza told The Hindu. He added that when he approached the Indian High Commission in Pakistan for visa, the officials told him that there was no provision for issuing visa for Pakistani students. Quoting a website he pointed out that there were restricted provisions for student visa in India on a case by case basis and finally he was granted visa. If the visa procedures were simplified, a large number of Pakistani students would come for pursuing higher studies in India, Mr. Raza hoped.