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India-Russia talks on visa-free travel deal to begin next month: Russian minister

Russian minister Nikita Kondratyev said consultations over a bilateral visa-free travel agreement would begin in June and a signing was expected at the end of the year. Russia had announced earlier that it planned to launch visa-free tourist exchanges with India in 2024.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Moscow Published on: May 17, 2024 16:27 IST
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Moscow: Russian Minister Nikita Kondratyev has confirmed that consultations between Russia and India on a bilateral agreement to ease travel will begin in June, adding that Moscow and New Delhi were set to strengthen their tourism ties by launching visa-free group tourist exchanges. This came months after Russia said it planned to launch visa-free tourist exchanges with India in 2024.

"India is at the final stage of internal state coordination," Kondratyev, director of the Russian Economic Development Ministry’s Department of Multilateral Economic Cooperation and Special Projects, was quoted by RT News as saying on the sidelines of the 'Russia-Islamic World: KazanForum 2024' event.

He further said a signing was expected by the end of the year after holding discussions over the draft agreement on bilateral visa-free travel in June. "Russia and India are set to strengthen their tourism ties as they gear up for the launch of visa-free group tourist exchanges. The first round of consultations between the two nations is scheduled for June, with an aim to finalise a bilateral agreement by the end of the year," the minister said.

Kondratyev said Russia planned to replicate the success of visa-free tourist exchanges already established with China and Iran. Moscow initiated visa-free group tourist exchanges with Beijing and Tehran on August 1 last year, ushering in a new era of tourism cooperation.

In 2023, the Russian capital was visited by 3.7 million business tourists - 7 per cent more than in 2022. And India remains one of the leaders among visitors from non-CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) countries in terms of the number of business travellers.

In February, Iran scrapped visa requirements for Indian tourists, although the waiver was subjected to several conditions. Last year, Iran announced the removal of visa requirements for Indian citizens and tourists from 32 other countries to boost global tourism and counter negative perceptions. The decision by Iranian authorities follows similar decisions by countries like Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam to waive visa requirements for Indian tourists.

The surge in outbound Indian tourists, reaching 13 million in 2022, has prompted nations to facilitate travel. The Iranian Embassy in New Delhi on Tuesday announced the government's decision to waive visa requirements for Indian tourists starting from February 4 subject to certain conditions, in a development that is a testament to growing India-Iran ties despite significant disruptions in the geopolitical order.

Indian citizens can travel visa-free to 30 countries across the world. These include Nepal, Bhutan, Indonesia, Qatar, the Maldives, Macau, Mauritius, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Oman, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago and others.

(with inputs from PTI)

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