M A I N   N E W S

Tharoor ‘tweet’ earns rebuff from Krishna
Home Ministry will not budge on two-month gap

Ashok Tuteja & Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 28
Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor appears to be in trouble yet again for his “tweeting” habit.

He was snubbed publicly by his senior and External Affairs Minister S M Krishna for his controversial remarks on the recent changes in the visa norms introduced by the government in the wake of sensational disclosures in the case pertaining to terror suspects David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana.

Armed with evidence that long-term multiple-entry tourist visas to India were being misused, the Home Ministry has made it clear that there was no scope for any relaxation of the mandatory two-month gap between two visits to India.

Foreign Minister Krishna, meanwhile, backed the stance of the Home Ministry and pulled up Tharoor for making public his opinion on a highly sensitive issue, saying “the business of government is far too serious”.

“We have gone along with the Home Ministry on the visa issue,” Krishna told reporters when asked about Tharoor's remarks on Twitter, a social networking site, criticising the government for its new visa regulations. The senior said “….These issues are not to be discussed in public”. If there were any perceptions, they should be sorted out within the four walls of the two ministries.

External Affairs Ministry sources denied that the Foreign Office and the Home Ministry were involved in a turf war on the visa issue. There was no question of any confrontation between the two ministries. The External Affairs Ministry would always articulate the perspective of foreign tourists but it was the duty and the responsibility of the Home Ministry to formulate visa norms, keeping the security aspect in mind. “So it would be wrong to say that the two ministries are on a different page,” they added.

In this connection, the sources also pointed out that the government had amended the some of the provisions of the new visa regime after it was realised that these could affect genuine travellers to India.

The Home Ministry is clear that misuse of visa was a sensitive issue and the only relaxation will be for tourists, who submit their itinerary in advance with detailed documentation of the travel plans to the Indian missions abroad. Such people will be allowed two to three entries depending upon their arrival and exit from India. This facility will be for people who intend to make India their base while travelling in South-east Asia and also provide certain documents to establish the legitimacy of their return visit, sources said.

In his “tweets”, Tharoor had questioned whether the new visa restriction would actually strengthen security as the 26/11 killers had no visas”. He also made it public that he had protested to the MHA over the matter. Tharoor went on to say “The issue is not security (versus) tourism, but whether visa restrictions protect our security. 26/11 killers had no visas.”

Apart from the category of people, who submit detailed travel plan and are allowed more than one entry, there will can be no relaxations, said a source while adding, “People have been staying on for years together. They are not tourists but are running business in places like Goa and along the sensitive west coast”. It is free-for-all cases have surfaced which involves people who have purchased properties, are running hotels and have even got married all the while being on multiple-entry tourist visas. The Home Ministry is clear that those who want to run a business have to apply for business visas that have a different procedure which has now been made even more stringent.

In October, the MHA had asked all those employed on projects in India but had business visas to apply for employment visas.

The same are now issued to only workers who have specialised skills that are not available in India. Semi-skilled or un-skilled workers do not get employment visas.



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