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India visa-on-arrival scheme to be extended was the first news item that I read this morning. I think that it is a good idea. Here is why.

  1. It will boost tourism (including medical tourism). 
  2. Business travelers will be able to make quicker and more unplanned visits, improving India’s image as business friendly.
  3. Pressure on Embassies and Missions abroad will be reduced. A lot of administrative time spent on processing visa applications will be saved.

The matter of security has been, I am sure, gone into thoroughly by intelligence agencies. They have given the go ahead. For better control, India is planning to use the Immigration, Visa and Foreigner’s Registration & Tracking (IVFRT) system [More details at Bureau of immigration India]

In order to Modernize and upgrade the Immigration services, “Immigration, Visa and Foreigners Registration & Tracking (IVFRT)” has been identified and included as one of the MMPs to be undertaken by the Ministry of Home Affairs under the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP). The core objective of this Project is to develop and implement a secure and integrated service delivery framework that facilitates legitimate travelers while strengthening security. The scope of the project includes 169 Missions, 77 ICPs (Immigration Check Posts), 5 FRROs (Foreigners Regional Registration Offices), and FROs (Foreigners Registration Offices) in the State/District Headquarters.
The implementation of this MMP will enable authentication of traveler’s identity at the Missions, Immigration Check Posts (ICPs) and Foreigners Registration Offices (FROs) through use of intelligent document scanners and biometrics, updation of foreigner’s details at entry and exit points, improved tracking of foreigner’s through sharing of information captured during visa issuance at Missions, during immigration check at ICPs, and during registration at FRRO/ FROs.

At a very practical level let us look at what type of countries need higher walls.

  1. Police states which are afraid of external influence and
  2. Desired immigration destinations like the developed world.

India is not a police state and we have no reason to fear influence of people / journalists coming from outside.  Then too, not all countries will be thus favoured – some that are perceived as a security threat are on the negative list, which means their citizens will have to go through the whole scrutiny process and obtain visas before leaving for India. 

India, with respect, is not yet a favoured destination for non-Indians to escape to. It may be some time in the future but it is not one now. Apart from a few countries which are poorer we are not likely to be attractive to too many. Plus for an illegal immigrant to disappear in India, (s)he would have to belong to some very specific ethnicity and there are not too many of those outside India anyway. 

Lastly, facility of visa on arrival NEVER means a guaranteed entry into the country. It means that an undesirable person could be turned back at the gates.

To conclude, it is a much better system; one that will enable India to push for reciprocation with more countries making it easier for Indians to travel abroad.

Makarand

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