Tharoor tweets opposition to India's new visa regulations

Restrictions will cost dollars and alienate country, posts minister

Tharoor tweets opposition to India's new visa regulations

THAROOR: Restrictive visa regulations can hurt the image of our country.

Tharoor tweeted on December 24: “My only role is to object to them strongly. MEA (ministry of external affairs) officials are discussing them with MoHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) which imposed them.”

On November 4, the Union Home Ministry issued a directive that foreign nationals having a long-term multi-entry Indian tourist visa must have a mandatory two-month gap between two visits.

This led to howls of protests, especially from the United States and British governments who termed it arbitrary and ad-hoc.

The guidelines were introduced after it was revealed that two conspirators of the Mumbai terror attacks, David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Rana, now in the custody of the United States, obtained long-term tourist visas and visited several Indian cities.

On December 24, the external affairs ministry clarified that there would be flexibility by Indian missions and immigration authorities in allowing two or three entries by foreigners subject to a detailed itinerary and supporting documents.

A day later, Tharoor further expanded on his views, pointing out that tightening visa rules will discourage “tourism and goodwill”.

“Dilemma of our age: tough visa restrictions in hope of btr (better) security or openness & (and) liberality to encourage tourism & goodwill? I prefer latter,” he said on Twitter from Udaipur while on holiday.

Immediately, there was a stream of opinions from several of his 5,30,000-plus followers. 
‘Zookybeans’ responded angrily, “Go tell UK, USA to reduce paperwork for visas or return the compliment in the true spirit. Why r u so bothered abt (about) visitors?” A more amenable ‘rudrojit’ accepted Tharoor’s suggestion.

“Agree completely. Restrictive visa regulations can only hurt the image of our country and business,” he said.

Tharoor, however, was not done yet. On December 26 he said: “Issue is not security vs (versus) tourism, but whether visa restrictions protect our security. 26/11 killers had no visas.”

He said that making it more difficult for visitors to return frequently or stay longer will only “cost us millions of $ (dollars) and alienates (sic)”.

“Is all that worth it just in hope of making it difficult for a future Headley to recce (reconnaissance)? R (Are) we going 2 (to) allow terrorists 2 (to) make us less welcoming?” he asked, rhetorically.

No easy answers

Admitting that there were “no easy answers” to these questions, the minister asserted that “security must not become an excuse 2 (to) change our cntry (country) 4d (for the) worse”.

He pointed out that visa arrangements were reciprocal.
“The more restrictive we become, the tougher it will be for Indians to travel freely,” he said.

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