Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposed visit to China, India may extend the e-tourist visa facility to citizens of that country, despite strong opposition from an intelligence agency.
The matter was discussed threadbare at a recent high- level meeting, chaired by Union Home Secretary L C Goyal, during which the intelligence agency expressed reservations and suggested a cautious approach before taking a final decision.
The Tourism Ministry has been strongly advocating extending the e-tourist visa facility to five more countries, including China. The other four countries are the UK, France, Italy and Spain.
Home Ministry officials said the intelligence agency has red flagged granting of the e-tourist visa facility to Chinese nationals due to various reasons.
Frequent issuance of stapled visa by China to people from Arunachal Pradesh was one of the key reasons for the objection, an official said.
However, there is a high possibility of over-ruling the objection by the highest level of the government, the official said.
There is a possibility of announcement of visa-on-arrival facility to Chinese nationals before Modi’s proposed visit to China in May.
Last year, India had launched the e-tourist visa facility (which was earlier called ‘tourist visa on arrival enabled by electronic travel authorisation’) for more than 40 countries, including the US, but did not include China in the list.
Chinese officials have rued that the country has been put on par with Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran.
India’s ambassador to China Ashok K Kantha had met top Home Ministry officials in January and said to have asked for the facility to be extended to Chinese tourists. He had also asked for an easier visa regime for other kinds of visas like conference and business as well as discussed prospects of more Chinese investment in India in various sectors.
The e-tourist visa enabled by electronic travel authorisation would enable the prospective visitor to apply for an Indian visa from his or her home country online without visiting the Indian mission and also pay the visa fee online.
Once approved, the applicant will receive an email authorising him or her to travel to India and he or she can travel with a print out of this authorisation. On arrival, the visitor has to present the authorisation to the immigration authorities who would then stamp the entry into the country
Tourism Ministry is pitching for offering the facility to China as during December 2014, a total of 14,083 e-tourist visas were issued as compared to 2,700 during December 2013, registering a growth of 421.6 per cent.
Since launch of the scheme on November 27, 2014, a total of 1,10,000 visas have been issued by the government under the scheme.
During December 2014, a total of 14,083 tourist visas were issued as compared to 2,700 during December 2013, registering a growth of 421.6 per cent.
The percentage share of top 10 source countries for e-tourist visa in India during December 2014 included US (24.26 per cent), Russian Federation (15.06), Republic of Korea (11.01), Ukraine (8.16), Australia (7.98), New Zealand (5.08), Japan (4.30), Singapore (4.27), Germany (4.05) and the Philippines (3.10 per cent).