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Myra Dhull asked: How significant is India’s move to grant e-visas to Chinese citizens when the issue of stapled visas issued by China is still unresolved? Will it have a real impact on India-China relations?

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  • Avinash Godbole replies: India’s decision to grant e-visas to Chinese tourists was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his speech at the Tsinghua University in Beijing last month. India and China have sought to increase people-to-people contact which has been lagging for long and e-visa is a step in that direction. It must be noted that e-visa is often confused as visa-on-arrival. The two are not the same thing in any way. The e-visa is not an open invitation like the visa-on-arrival. It will take many years of trust-building effort before India and China could offer such facilities to one another. Therefore, grant of e-visas should be seen as separate from the issue of stapled visas.

    In the scheme of e-visa, a tourist still will have to visit the office issuing the Indian visa and undergo interview and biometric scanning procedures. However, a big relief will be that the visa applicant can take the passport back after the due process. The concerned visa issuing agency would work on the process of issuing the visa and the applicant would get to know within a stipulated time frame, may be of 48 or 72 hours, whether or not the visa has been issued. When they arrive in India, their arrival information would already be with the immigration desk and an entry stamp would be granted to those who show up with the supporting documents. So, this process only takes away the hassle of making a second visit for collecting the passport and reduces the time lag by 10 to 12 days.

    It is important to note that the number of outbound Chinese tourists is highest in Asia and yet the least number of them come to India. With easier visa processes, a more welcome atmosphere would be created and more Chinese tourists can be expected to visit India. It will not only promote tourism in India, but also help expand employment and other benefits that expanded tourism can bring. There is a big socialisation gap between India and China and such steps are expected to help bridge that gap in the coming years.

    Posted on June 10, 2015