Moscow, Aug 2: Prime Minister Vladimir Putin today approved an Indo-Russian deal easing issuance of business and tourist visas to their nationals.The Russian Cabinet, chaired by Putin, at a meeting gave its nod to the agreement and forwarded it to the Lower House of Parliament - the State Duma for ratification.
The Inter-Governmental Agreement on simplification of requirements for mutual travels of certain categories of citizens was signed by India and Russia on December 21, 2010 in New Delhi.
“The Agreement aims to consolidate the legal basis for Russia-India relations in the area of requirements for mutual travels of citizens and promote creation of favourable conditions for facilitation of mutual travels of certain categories of citizens of the two countries, first of all representatives of business structures, scientists, cultural workers, students and tourists,” First Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Denisov said presenting the document at the Cabinet meeting.
The citizens of the two countries holding valid passports can stay on the territory of the other country for up to 90 days within a period of 180 days, according to the Cabinet press service.
Currently, individual citizens and organisations need an invitation or a tourist voucher to travel to Russia or India, but if the deal is ratified by the parliament and signed into law by President Dmitry Medvedev, they will be able to directly apply for visas.
For the first time, since the Soviet collapse, the two sides are also considering the possibility of issuing multiple entry visas valid for up to five years to citizens of both the countries under the condition that they follow certain requirements, which are yet to be identified.
Earlier in June, India took a lead in resolving the vexed visa issue by liberalising its rules for the Russian citizens visiting India on business and tourism.
“To further encourage business contacts and promote tourism between India and Russia, we are now issuing multi-entry business visas valid for one year, against six months single or double entry in the past, and tourist visas valid for six months with multiple entries,” Indian Ambassador Ajai Malhotra said.
The Indian diplomatic missions in Moscow, St Petersburg and Vladivostok have streamlined issuance of business and tourist visas within three working days against 14 days in the past.
According to Malhotra, the Indian missions in Russia had issued about 110,000 visas to Russian citizens during 2010. “I expect this number to increase by about 25 per cent this year.”
Tourist flows from Russia to India have picked up in recent years, with Goa, New Delhi-Agra-Jaipur Golden Triangle, Mumbai and Kulu-Manali emerging as major attractions, while more Indian tourists can now be on Moscow's Red Square and St Petersburg's Palace Square, although their number is still small. PTI