The UPA government is set to make it easier for Chinese nationals to visit India, especially on business. A Memorandum of Understanding on the new visa regime is expected to be signed during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Beijing next week.
Under the new regime, the duration of a business visa for visitors from China will be increased to a year instead of the current six months; all conference, employment and project visa applications will be cleared by the home ministry within 30 days, and a requirement that bars Chinese tourists from returning to India within two months of leaving the country may be lifted.
In addition to this, family members of Chinese diplomats will be issued visas of the same duration as of the official's tenure in India.
The Union cabinet is set to clear these proposals on Thursday before the PM leaves for Russia and China.
The visa regime has been a sticky issue between the two countries for several years. Beijing often staples visas on passports of Indians from Arunachal Pradesh, something that Singapore, that issue e-visas, also does.
But in China's case, visas are stapled to signify that Beijing considers Arunachal Pradesh to be part of China.
India is reworking visa rules for Chinese nationals after a decade during which it relaxed entry for several other nationals. This could be because New Delhi preferred to restrict the stay of Chinese nationals in India due to fears that the line between Communist Party of China cadres, security establishment and the country's businessmen and professionals are often blurred.
At present, Chinese nationals are issued business visas for six months with a maximum stay of 90 days each time.
The 30-day time limit for the issuance of conference and employment & project visas comes after several complaints that delays in the issuing of such visas has led to Chinese and Indian firms suffering major losses. This happened because the home ministry had made it mandatory for visa officers to get its approval to grant certain visas. But since grant of approval was never subject to a time frame, several months passed before such visas were cleared.
Batting for a relaxed regime, external affairs minister Salman Khurshid said recently: "Trade must come with travel. Business has to travel, and for that it is important both countries have an easier visa regime for its businessmen."
According to sources, Indian embassy in Beijing has in the past pitched for relaxed regime several times with the government back home. It was also pointed out that the Chinese issues more visas to Indians that India does to Chinese nationals.