India has relaxed its tourist visa rules by lifting restrictions on foreign visitors who were required to have a two-month gap between two visits to the country.
However, citizens of Bangladesh, Pakistan, China, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan and people of Pakistani or Bangladeshi origin and "stateless persons" will continue to come under the 60-day gap rule, official sources said here yesterday.
The restriction was imposed in 2009 after the Mumbai terror attack of November 26, 2008, when it was found that terrorist David Headley of Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba had "grossly misused" his multiple-entry visa. With the visa, he had made nine trips to India and prepared footage of attack targets for the group.
The Indian home ministry, however, made it clear that any applicant for an Indian visa who has any Pakistani lineage, even if it goes two generations back, must be referred to Delhi by the Indian missions for prior clearance.
In its November 23 order, the home ministry said, "The provision relating to the two-month gap between two visits of a foreign national to India on a tourist visa has been reviewed by the government. It has now been decided to lift the restriction of two-month gap on re-entry of foreign nationals coming to India".
The move to review the visa restriction was initiated by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) in January this year after the tourism ministry raised concerns that the negative perception following the restrictions had affected the flow of tourists.
The PMO had asked the ministries of home and external affairs to review the restrictions, including the possibility of bringing in more countries under a visa-on-arrival scheme.