New Delhi, April 26 (IANS) In a significant move, the Union Home Ministry has allowed the foreigners — except those from Pakistan, China and Afghanistan — to visit tourist locations in Nagaland, Mizoram and Manipur. which were so far restricted areas.
With the decision, applicable from April 1, the foreigner now can visit the three states for the next five years without any permit, an official said.
Nagaland, Mizoram and Manipur were, since the last six decades, kept under Protected Area Permit (PAP) regime.
Earlier, from January 1, 2011, the PAP was initially lifted for one year from the three states as per a December 30, 2010 circular of the Union Home Ministry.
“Foreign tourist can visit tourist locations in Nagaland, Mizoram and Manipur without any PAP from April 1, 2018 to March 31, 2013. Citizens from Pakistan, China and Afghanistan are still banned from all PAP areas,” the Home Ministry official said.
The areas falling between the Inner line and the International Border of some states were declared as protected areas under the Foreigners (Protected Areas) Order, 1958.
The protected areas currently include whole of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim, besides parts of Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir. Some parts of Sikkim fall under the protected area regime while others under the restricted area.
The official further said a review is going on to lift PAP from other areas too.
As per the guidelines, a foreign national is not normally allowed to visit a protected or restricted area unless the government is satisfied that there are extraordinary reasons to justify his or her visit.
Every foreigner, except a citizen of Bhutan, who desires to enter and stay in a protected or restricted area, is required to obtain a special permit from a competent authority having the power to issue such permits.
In cases, where the power to issue such permits has not been delegated to a subordinate authority by the Central government, the application for the special permit has to be referred to Union Home Ministry for prior approval, at least eight weeks before the date of the expected visit.
With an aim to promote tourism, the government, time to time by notification, exempts some of such restricted or protected areas from the need of special permission for foreigners to visit them.
Necessary powers have been delegated to various authorities to issue such special permits without the prior approval of the Home Ministry to facilitate foreign tourists subject to the certain exceptions.
In cases of foreign diplomats, including the members of the United Nations and international organisations holding diplomatic or official passports, the special permits to visit such protected or restricted areas are issued by the Ministry of External Affairs.
In cases of the citizens of Afghanistan, China and Pakistan and foreign nationals of Pakistani origin, no permit, however, can be issued without the prior approval of the Union Home Ministry.