India intends to extend visa-on-arrival facility to tourists from 40 more countries, including the US, the UK, Canada, Brazil, Australia, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, a move which will make the country a more tourist-friendly destination and promote foreign exchange earnings.
The Planning Commission has called a high-level meeting of different ministries and National Security Advisor on Monday to deliberate on the feasibility of the move.
"We have called a meeting on October 7 to discuss the possibility of extending tourist visa for 40 more countries as this could help in garnering more foreign exchange and containing the current account deficit," Planning Minister Rajeev Shukla told PTI.
During fiscal year 2012-13 (FY13), current account deficit, which is the difference between inflow and outflow of foreign exchange, was at an all-time high of 4.8 per cent of GDP, or $88.2 billion. The government proposes to bring it down to 3.8 per cent, or $70 billion, of the GDP.
According to the minster, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and senior officials from concerned ministries like tourism, external affairs, home affairs are expected to attend the meeting. National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon will also participate in the discussions.
"Tourism Ministry has raised the issue of tourist visa regime as impediment in the growth of foreign visitors in the country which ultimately results in lesser foreign exchange earnings," Mr Shukla said.
According to the minister, India's visa regime has deflected foreign tourists from the US, Canada and Europe to Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Nepal.
The other countries for which this facility can be extended include Germany, France, Italy, Swedan, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain, Belgium, Austria, Denmark, Poland, Norway, Ireland, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, Turkey, Israel, Mauritius, Czech Republic, Oman, Argentina and Kazakhstan.