Millennium Post

Govt to further ease visa regime to boost tourism, biz: Swaraj

Government on Sunday said it is planning to further relax the visa regime “shortly” to attract more tourists and businesses to the country. “We plan to further liberalise our visa regime for tourism, business as well as other areas shortly,” External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said at the valedictory session of the Global Investors Meet here. 

She said visa was one of the areas of concern for foreigners and Indians living abroad. The minister said the government has already taken steps to address these concerns. In November 2014, government launched the e-visa scheme for over 100 countries. It was extended to 37 more countries this year, taking the total number to 150.

“With the launch of the e-visa scheme, tourist arrivals in India has steadily increased,” she said, adding the 25 million strong Indian diaspora, comprising NRIs and PIOs, are a significant force for promoting India’s interests abroad. Realising this, she said the government has unveiled initiatives for roping them in India’s mission of transforming the country. 

The minister said that OCI and PIO cards have been merged and a system has been put in place for welfare and protection of Indian immigrant workers. A portal has been launched to redress their grievances in a time-bound manner. Talking about investments, she said FDI policy has been made more liberal, making India one of the most open countries in the world. She informed the investors that the government has passed bankruptcy law and a clear cut roadmap for lowering corporate tax from 30 per cent to 25 per cent over the next four years has been laid down.

GST Act has been passed and so far 23 states have ratified it, she added. Reform efforts and initiatives such as Make in India, Digital India, Start up India and Smart City Mission are all aimed at preparing India for the 21st century, she said. She added that 100 per cent electrification of all villages, financial inclusion programme and LPG gas initiatives are all aimed at inclusive growth. The jump in India’s position across several indices like ease of doing business underlines the country’s economic recovery, the minister, said adding FDI reached $55.5 billion in 2015-16, an increase of 53 per cent. 

Further, Swaraj said that the NDA government has completed about two-and-a-half years and during this time, India’s foreign policy has touched new frontiers of scale and engagement. The Prime Minister has made more than 40 visits and interacted with more than 125 world leaders and “I myself visited more than 40 countries,” she said. 

“In the coming months, we should be able to complete our mapping of the world,” she added. She also said that every country, no matter how small or big, is important for India and “we are determined to keep our ‘sampark aur samvad’ (engagement) ... with them”.
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