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Nervous India to relax visa rules for Chinese soon.

NEW DELHI -- India sure is feeling a little unsettled with China having just doled out $46bn to Pakistan. No wonder this and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to China next month, is compelling the government not only to consider extending e-tourist visa facility to China, but also discussing its removal from the list of 'prior reference category' countries for conference visa and doing away with restriction of two-month interval between visits by Chinese nationals on tourist visa.

Incidentally, though intelligence agencies maintain their reservations over easing of tourist visa norms for Chinese nationals, there is a realization within the home ministry that keeping China out of the list of 150 countries that will be granted e-tourist visa facility this fiscal would send a wrong signal.

MHA frowns over 'visa on arrival' for Chinese tourists, brushes aside tourism ministry plan

The home ministry, which reviewed the matter on Monday but failed to firm up its stand in the wake of stiff opposition from RAW and IB, will hold a final discussion with the foreign ministry later this week and place its comments "for final clearance at the highest level," government sources told TOI.

According to intelligence agencies, allowing e-tourist visa, easing of the two-month restriction on consecutive visits made on tourist visas and doing away with the norm requiring home ministry's clearance for each conference visa application by a Chinese national was fraught with risks. The agencies cited overstay by Chinese citizens in India as well as past instances of some taking to spying.

However, there were counter-arguments as well at the meeting chaired by home secretary L C Goyal. "There are bound to be protests from China if it is kept out of the list of countries eligible for e-tourist visa. Given that the list is set to include Algeria and Nigeria, both of which have a significant presence of terrorist elements, India will have to explain why China should be denied e-tourist visa on security grounds," a home ministry official said.

As for the fear of overstay, the official said Nigerians were a far bigger threat, as 1,589 of them were found to be overstaying in 2013 compared to 357 Chinese nationals. Sources said there was a strong likelihood of the intelligence agencies' reservations being overruled at the highest level, paving the way for an easier visa regime with China ahead of Modi's visit. This would include streamlining of normal visa regime with China based on reciprocity.

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Publication:The Frontier Star (Northwest Frontier Province, Pakistan)
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Apr 22, 2015
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