Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - India to ease visa norms to lure visitors

India to ease visa norms to lure visitors

An oarsman takes tourists for a closer look at water side of the Gateway of India in Mumbai. AFP
An oarsman takes tourists for a closer look at water side of the Gateway of India in Mumbai. AFP

India to ease visa norms to lure visitors

India is looking to ease its visa regime for ASEAN nations in a bid to increase Buddhist tourist arrivals – travellers looking to visit Buddhist heritage sites – to the country, India’s vice president said.

Speaking during a visit to Thailand last week, Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari said the shared heritage of the region – the rise of Buddhism in India and its spread to Southeast Asia – was a focus area for the South Asian nation’s engagement with the region, though he did not elaborate on the details of this proposed visa liberalisation.

“In consideration of these links, India is considering the feasibility of liberalising our visa regime for ASEAN countries to facilitate Buddhist tourist arrivals,” he said.

Cambodians already have easy access to Indian visas, with business travellers having to pay no visa fees to visit the country, said N Sitlhou, the first secretary at the Indian Embassy in Phnom Penh.

“It is already eased. We give Cambodians a visa the same day and we are not charging them for business-related activities,” Sitlhou said.

Plans were in place to have a seminar in early April, Sitlhou said, which will be attended by Tourism Minister Thong Khon, the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents (CATA) and tour operators from India, to find an “all-in-one” approach to bring more Cambodian tourists to Buddhist sites in India. However, there would be other benefits beyond tourism as well, he added.

“The Buddhist circuit [for travellers] is the main thing, but this will also help increase business engagement [between the two countries],” Sitlhou added.

Ang Kim Eang, president of CATA, said that obtaining a visa to India was not difficult, but getting rid of visa fees for tourists, which could be a little expensive for local travellers, would help boost tourist numbers to India.

He added that increasing connectivity to India will bring down the costs of travelling to the subcontinent. India and Cambodia are currently working on starting a direct flight between the two countries.

“It is very inconvenient for the travellers [without a direct flight],” he added.

According to Eang, there was interest among local travellers to visit India, and there was already a “large number” of people visiting India to do the Buddhist circuit of sites.

However, Eang was unaware of the exact number of travellers visiting India.

India’s “Act East” policy is Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s revamp of the decades old “Look East” policy, and aims to strengthen economic and strategic relations in the region.

It also looks to counter China’s strategic and aggressive economic investments in ASEAN, much like the US’ “Pivot to Asia” policy.

MOST VIEWED

  • US think tank warns of China's 'ulterior motives'

    A US think tank on Tuesday warned that spreading Chinese investment in the Indo-Pacific follows a pattern of leveraging geopolitical influence at the expense of the nations receiving investment, including Cambodia. The report looks at a sample of 15 Chinese port development projects, noting that the

  • Defence Ministry denies weapons in smuggling case came from Cambodia

    After a Thai national was arrested last week for allegedly smuggling guns from Cambodia to Thailand, Cambodia's Defence Ministry has claimed the weapons seized during the arrest are not used in Cambodia, despite the fact that both types of rifle seized are commonly found in

  • More than three tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia seized in Mozambique

    A total of 3.5 tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia was seized by authorities in Mozambique late last week, according to the NGO Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES' information was based on a report from the

  • Shipwreck found off coast of Koh Kong

    Royal Cambodian Navy researchers are working to identify a decades-old shipwreck found earlier this month off the coast of Koh Kong province. Divers found the 70-metre-long wreck on April 4 about a mile from Koh Chhlam island, according to Navy officials. Deputy Navy Commander Tea Sokha,