India and Japan agreed to a “sweeping” liberalisation of their bilateral visa regime during PM Manmohan Singh’s state visit to Tokyo.
This is a first step in realising the Indo-Japanese Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) which Singh described in Tokyo as “ready to be concluded”.
Sources say the text of the CEPA has been agreed upon and “frozen” and is expected to be approved by the Japanese Diet next spring.
The memorandum on simplifying visa procedures allows:
Indian business people will be able to avail of a five-year, multiple entry visa from Japan.
Indians in Japan will be able to get visas for all their family members, including non-nuclear family members.
Japanese workers resident in India will be able to get three-year working permits.
CEPA’s conclusion will lift more migration barriers. Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said the agreement will make it easier for Indian software professionals, nurses and tourism professionals to go to Japan.
Some cases, for example nurses, will be “revisited” to help Indians meet Japan’s examination requirements. Japanese officials say they are also looking favourably at Indian requests for welfare and pension payments being waived or refunded for temporary workers.
The visa regime, say Indian officials, represents a “huge liberalisation, across the board.” While large Indian firms get visas easily, the new regime will allow individual workers to apply for jobs in Japan.
The track is two-way: the Indian embassy in Tokyo has seen a 60% rise in business visas for Japanese in the first nine months of this year. Worker visas for Japanese have jumped from 890 last year to 4,338 in the nine months of this year.
The CEPA would have other benefits. Singh said it would allow India’s pharmaceutical industry to tap Japan’s growing demand for “high quality and relatively inexpensive generic medicines.”
It would also mean about 95% of all goods would face no tariffs in either country after 10 years, say Japanese sources. This is crucial if India is to become part of the Asian manufacturing supply chain, a chain whose hub presently lies in China. An ageing Japan also wants more Indian students at its universities, many of which are running short of qualified students.