Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday unveiled an e-visa plan for Chinese citizens, which will enable tourists from the neighbouring country to apply for an Indian visa online.
He told students at Tsinghua University, where President Xi Jinping had studied, that the online visa facility was a step for improving bilateral relations between the two Asian giants.
“We must build more bridges of familiarity and comfort between our people. About 33% of the world’s population is either Indian or Chinese. Yet, our people know very little of each other. We must seek inspiration from pilgrims of ancient times, who braved the unknown in search of knowledge, and enriched us both,” he said.
“So, we have decided to extend electronic tourist visas to Chinese nationals. We are celebrating the Year of India in China in 2015.”
According to a report, less than 200,000 Chinese visit India.
Modi’s announcement drew flak back home as the Congress accused him of going overboard to woo Beijing which still has not committed anything on doing away with its stapled visas to people from Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.
China has been laying territorial claim over Arunachal Pradesh and parts of Jammu and Kashmir.
“Diplomacy is all about quid pro quo and reciprocity. It is unfortunate that the matter (of stapled visas) has not been raised this time at all,” Congress spokesperson RPN Singh said in New Delhi.
Singh said the issue of e-visas was first raised by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when he visited China. That time, the matter was tagged to the issue of China issuing stapled visas.
The e-visa announcement came in the teeth of concerns expressed by the home ministry and security agencies over its possible misuse even as the external affairs and tourism ministries pressed for it.
It was not immediately clear from when Chinese tourists could apply for e-visas.
(With agency inputs)