US, UK protest as India gets tough on visas

Discussion in 'Defence & Strategic Issues' started by RAM, Dec 23, 2009.

  1. RAM

    RAM The southern Man Senior Member

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    US, UK protest as India gets tough on visas


    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/...a-gets-tough-on-visas/articleshow/5367548.cms

    NEW DELHI: The tightening of visa norms following the unearthing of terror missions of Lashkar jihadi David Coleman Headley has raised a storm of protests from countries such as UK and US.The new rules, to be notified next week, will apply to anyone needing a visa to come to India, even those of Indian origin.
    Essentially, they will stop the current system where an Indian tourist visa doubled up as a business visa.
    The new rules say that if you are in India on a tourist visa and have stayed for over 90 days, you need to take a two-month "time-out" before returning. This will hit hard thousands of foreign nationals living in India on long-term tourist visas. They prefer tourist visas to avoid the cumbersome process involved in securing a visa that can give them the right to residency.


    There is another category which will be affected by the change in visa regime -- foreigners who arrive in India on tourist visas and use the country as the base for travel to nearby nations. The change, prompted by the discovery of how Headley moved in and out of the country while plotting terror strikes against India, has caught many foreign tourists unawares, provoking howls of protest. The MEA too has asked the home ministry to reconsider these provisions, which are seen as drastic by many.

    Headley was in India on a multiple-entry long-term visa when he charted out terror targets for Laskhar-e-Toiba. The videos prepared by him during his reccee of Mumbai were used by Lashkar terrorists in the 26/11 attack.

    The protests have already led the home ministry to introduce a "rider" to make things easier, but this has not abated calls for a review of the decision.
    British business secretary Lord Peter Mandelson, who is in India, met home minister P Chidambaram to request that the government rethink the visa policy. He said it would hurt British tourists who make India a base while travelling in the region.

    The British High Commission confirmed to TOI that a letter had been sent to the Indian government over the last two days, asking for a review of the proposed visa guidelines. Officials later indicated they would be "flexible" if, at the time of applying for a visa, the applicant tells the Indian visa officer that he will also be travelling to other countries in the region, using India as a hub. The visa will reflect the itinerary of the tourist, affording him more flexibility. But it will entail, just like in any other country with multiple-entry visa norms, considerable paperwork. Here too, the discretion will lie with the visa officer concerned, which is always ground for irregularities. Some government departments have questioned whether there is enough manpower to deal with the increased paperwork.

    The issue represents the tussle between competing objectives of effective counter-terrorism and boosting tourism. While government feels that easier visa norms make it possible for terrorists like Headley and, early on, the founder of Jaish-e-Mohammad Maulana Masood Azhar, to seek to target India, a tighter visa regime is fraught with the risk of putting off tourists.

    Business visa norms have already been tightened after the government decided to clamp down on their misuse to bring in Chinese workers. Now, these workers will be required to take employment visas.

    For Pakistan origin people from third countries, coming to India now will become a story of long waits because their visas will have to be processed by the home ministry in Delhi, which is not known for its efficiency or fast pace. This means Indian families with kin in Pakistan or other countries will find it difficult to have family events without going through interminable waits at the visa offices. This would apply to people with third country passports but who have a Pakistani parent or even grandparent
     
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  3. Tamil

    Tamil Regular Member

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    i welcome it. tough stand on Visa's, make India a target less. on the other hand we miss lot of tourist's by this term's. But at any cost we must safeguard our nation is our first MOTTO.
     
  4. ppgj

    ppgj Senior Member Senior Member

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    Govt unlikely to change new tourist visa rules

    PTI New Delhi, December 28, 2009

    [​IMG]
    FIXING LOOPHOLES: Tahawwur Rana, a suspect in the 26/11 terror attack is believed to have hoodwinked the Indian consulate. India is now tightening it tourist visa system. File photo.

    Visa authorities are irked by Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor's controvercial tweet on India's revised tourist visa rules. The officials have maintained that the new rules will not change, even in the face of reservations from the US or UK.

    Unfazed by reservations from nations like the US and UK, the Government appears to be in no mood to relent on the new visa rules for tourists, saying it would not like to compromise with the country’s security interests.

    Citing the changes made by several countries like America and Britain after terror strikes, senior officials argue that it should be left to the Home Ministry to chalk out the plans for securing the nation.

    They maintained that while no complaints have been received form the US or the UK after the new visa rules were implemented, clarifications have been sought by Washington and they have been addressed.

    “When some foreign missions based in India sought clarity, we told them that if someone has to worry about tourists’ arrival, it is India which has to worry and not any other nation,” officials said on the condition of anonymity.

    As per the new visa rules, no tourist, having a travel document valid for 180 days, would be allowed to return to the country before a cooling-off period of two months.

    The new visa guidelines have been formulated after considering all relevant aspects and giving the security of the nation the top most priority, the officials said.

    The comments also come a day after Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor questioned the tightening of visa rules against the backdrop of the David Headley case and wryly said “26/11 killers had no visas.”

    The Home Ministry also cited an example where the girl friend of American terror suspect David Headley befriended a US couple in Manali.

    During the probe conducted by the National Investigation Agency, the American couple was spotted in Goa and it was found that they were living in India on a tourist visa for last nine years.

    “The man has been doing everything - setting up business, running a massage parlour, tourist centre etc. We don’t want that kind of a tourist,” the officials said and questioned why there was no murmur after the US tightened its visa rules after the September 2001 terror attack.

    “We have every right to protect our own interests,” they said.

    Pointing out that the new rules would not affect any other category except the tourist visa, the government argues that no genuine tourist would like to come to India within two months after staying for 180 days.

    The Hindu : News : Govt unlikely to change new tourist visa rules
     
  5. ppgj

    ppgj Senior Member Senior Member

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    Krishna irked by Tharoor’s tweet

    IANS New Delhi, December 28, 2009

    [​IMG]
    DISAPPROVAL: External Affairs Minister S M Krishna. The Minister expressed his ire over Shashi Tharoor's tweet on India's visa rules. File photo

    Disapproving of his junior minister Shashi Tharoor airing his differences with government policy in public, External Affairs Minister S.M Krishna said the government will go by the home ministry's guidelines and stressed that differences over issues should not be aired in public.

    “We have gone along with home ministry on the visa issue,” Krishna told reporters when asked about Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor’s remarks on Twitter, a popular social networking site, criticising the government for its new visa regulations.

    New entry regulations were introduced Nov 4 in the wake of disclosures about the abuse of tourist visas by 26/11 suspect David Coleman Headley.

    The 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. The new guidelines elicited protests from the US and British governments.

    “Well, these issues are not to be discussed in public,” Mr. Krishna said.

    “If there are any perceptions, they should be sorted out within the four walls of the two ministries,” he said.

    In his tweets, Mr. Tharoor questioned whether the new visa restriction would actually strengthen security as the “26/11 killers had no visas”.

    “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 Dec 26, Mr. Tharoor said: “Issue is not security vs tourism, but whether visa restrictions protect our security. 26/11 killers had no visas.”

    Mr. Tharoor had previously run into problems over his freewheeling remarks on Twitter and was counselled by both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi to be more discrete in his public comments since he was a minister in the government.

    The Hindu : News / National : Krishna irked by Tharoor’s tweet
     
  6. S.A.T.A

    S.A.T.A Senior Member Senior Member

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    Whats wrong with Tharoor,does this guy take his job seriously?
     
  7. ppgj

    ppgj Senior Member Senior Member

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    spot on. i have been wondering too for some time. he is eloquent, has international diplomatic flair but seriously suffers from internal dynamics of the state matters. he needs to know he is a minister not some aam admi tweeting his way.
     
  8. sayareakd

    sayareakd Moderator Moderator

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    GOI has sovereign right to do what it please with its visa policy, we have to remember that both US and UK has tighten their visa norms to prevent any terrorist attack and we are doing the same thing, therefore they have not right to say that is not ok.

    Even otherwise, tourist visa should not be used for business purpose.
     
  9. thakur_ritesh

    thakur_ritesh Administrator Administrator

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    tharoor needs to be careful, and does not need to be seen as pushing certain vested interests in the country at the behest of others. if he has issues then those be addressed through proper channels and certainly not through a public medium.

    for a change MHA is doing stuff that was long overdue, way to go!
     
  10. ppgj

    ppgj Senior Member Senior Member

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    It takes more than visa power to stop a terrorist

    Siddharth Varadarajan December 30, 2009

    How Headley got his Indian visa is the wrong question. What we should be asking is why his travel profile into and out of the country did not trigger alarm bells.

    The denial of a visa to a potential terrorist may be a country’s first line of defence against terrorism but the effectiveness of this weapon is inversely related to the length and porosity of its land border and coast line.

    The discovery that David Headley - the alleged Lashkar-e-Taiba operative now arraigned in Chicago for his involvement in multiple terror plots against India - had travelled to Mumbai as many as eight times sent shock waves through the security establishment not so much because he had visited but because he had done so on a valid visa. What has most alarmed our sleepy sleuths is the fact that Headley usually combined his visits to India with onward trips to Pakistan, where he is said to have received instructions from his handlers. That he stayed at the Taj Mahal and Oberoi Trident hotels in Mumbai, presumably as part of the reconnaissance team for the LeT’s November 2008 attack on the city, is of course the cherry atop this unwholesome confection.

    In response, the Ministry of Home Affairs has decreed that no foreign tourist with a long-term, multiple-entry visa should be allowed to re-enter India within two months of his or her departure. When a number of countries protested and threatened reciprocal restrictions on Indians holding long-term multiple-entry visas, this rule was relaxed, but by introducing an element of subjectivity. “Bona fide tourists” who, after initial entry into India, plan to visit another country and re-enter India before finally exiting, the Ministry of External Affairs said last week, may now be permitted “two or three entries” by Indian missions and immigration check posts “subject to their submission of a detailed itinerary and supporting documentation.”

    If the two-month rule was absurd to begin with, this proposed relaxation is even more comical. Have the babus in the MHA and MEA not heard of e-tickets and laser printers? Most terrorists don’t come to India with visas. And ‘tourists’ or ‘businessmen’ like Headley with mala fide intentions can easily procure fake or genuine “supporting documentation” to get past the new rule. But scores of bona fide visitors are likely to be deterred by the lack of predictability such rules engender. How many foreign visitors planning a combined trip to India and Nepal or India, Sri Lanka and Maldives would want to risk being denied re-entry? And since it is the responsibility of the airline to fly out passengers denied entry, one can imagine the confusion and uncertainty that will prevail at foreign airport counters when a tourist who has been to India within the previous 60 days arrives to check in with his “supporting documentation.” As for those on business visas, many of whom make dozens of trips into and out of India annually, the two-month rule would prove disastrous were it ever to be made applicable to them. And if the rule is not going to be applied to business visas, how would it help in a repeat of the Headley case considering that the U.S.-based alleged LeT operative had a long-term business visa?

    Like so many other “tough” steps India takes to fight terrorism, the new visa rule is really quite useless. Worse, by shifting the burden of prevention to the consular end of the travel chain rather than to border management, the MHA’s move is fundamentally misplaced. Consider the Headley case. If an individual lies on his visa application about his parents’ names and nationalities, there is no way an Indian consulate abroad can catch him short of demanding an enormous amount of supporting documents from every applicant (and sending it on to the MHA). But immigration officers are trained to flip through the passport of an incoming visitor to see where else he’s been travelling and whether his wider itinerary fits in with the line of work he claims to be in. Even if an immigration officer saw no reason to detain Headley or deny him entry, the fact that he had made multiple visits between India and Pakistan in less than a year should have led to his file being discreetly referred to the intelligence agencies for a background check. Had the same agencies run through the names of all those who had stayed at the Taj and Trident hotels in the two years before 26/11 and cross-referenced that list to a list of those making frequent trips between India and Pakistan, Headley might have been arrested soon after the Mumbai attacks rather than nine months later.

    Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor may have been indiscreet in publicly questioning the utility of the new visa rules but there is no denying the need for a wider debate on the subject. Asking how Headley got his Indian visa is surely the wrong question. What we should be asking is why his frequent shuttling between Pakistan and India did not trigger alarm bells within the Bureau of Immigration.

    In other words, the key to spotting and tracking potential terrorists lies in properly training our immigration officers, providing them with networked, state-of-the-art computers and generally improving the system of data storage and retrieval. Today, most immigration counters in India are staffed by policemen whose unfamiliarity with modern technology is apparent from the way they gingerly handle a mouse and keyboard.

    Last month, North Block sources gleefully leaked the news about the MEA having ‘lost’ Headley’s visa papers. The charge turned out to be false, though that didn’t prevent the media from working itself into a frenzy for 48 hours. One wonders if the Bureau of Immigration has been able to locate all eight entry and exit immigration forms that Headley filled up and surrendered during his trips to India, as well as those tiny Customs declaration forms inbound passengers must hand in before they leave the airport? Since Headley would have been required to fill out local addresses each time, it would be interesting to see what he wrote and whether that could provide further clues about the extent of his travel and activity. CCTV footage in the arrival hall and passenger reception area on the dates he arrived might have captured a local associate saying goodbye or hello to Headley. Serious policing means doing this sort of tedious work rather than trying to limit the number of trips a foreign visitor makes to India.

    Why sledgehammer approach?

    Instead of looking inward at the manner in which it guards our frontiers and ports of entry and making urgent improvements, the Home Ministry is keen to fix what ain’t broken elsewhere. North Block ‘sources’ have made much of the fact that a Goa-based American national known to Headley has been living in India for nine years on 180-day tourist visas that he renewed by flying to Nepal just before the expiry date. But this kind of abuse of the system can be fixed by making a small change in the registration rules applied by the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO). Currently, only foreigners holding visas valid for longer than six months are required to register themselves. But the FRRO can just as easily declare that foreigners staying in India for more than 180 accumulated days must register themselves. Promulgating and enforcing such a rule would be a much better way of catching those like the Goa man who abuse Indian visa provisions. Why use a sledgehammer approach of banning re-entry to all tourists for two months when a scalpel would do the job so much more neatly?

    The Hindu : Columns / Siddharth Varadarajan : It takes more than visa power to stop a terrorist
     
  11. ppgj

    ppgj Senior Member Senior Member

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    the author makes a valid and reasonable point like -

    how it escaped our immigration personnel's attention is what begs an answer. this is a very logical and simple suspicion that can alert anybody but as usual we are slack and correct everything post an incident in an incremental way.
     

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