‘Foreign researchers, scholars and activists misusing tourist visas’

The Union government on Wednesday warned foreigners on tourist visas to desist from carrying on journalistic activities in the country or face deportation, a norm followed by many countries.

The government took the decision after reports emerged of foreign researchers, scholars and activists misusing tourist visas to report on critical issues for various international magazines and journals.

Issuing the order, the Ministry of Home Affairs observed that “foreigners coming on tourist visa are involved in coverage of events/journalistic activities… In this context, it is stated that tourist visa is not the appropriate visa for such activities by the foreigners. Tourist visa is issued to foreigners who do not have residence or occupation in India and whose sole objective of visiting India is recreation, sightseeing, casual visit to meet friends and relatives etc. No other activity is permissible,” it said.

The MHA has asked the Ministry of External Affairs to alert all Indian missions abroad on this, while all the State governments and other authorities concerned have also been told to ensure strict compliance.

The MHA and the MEA have been monitoring media reports and coverage of India in various international publications.

Notably, in mid-2012, U.S.-based geophysicist Roger Bilham was denied entry into India when he landed at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport. Mr. Bilham, who has been visiting India since 1967 on a tourist visa, has been writing on Indian tectonics and nuclear projects. Some Indian scientists and officials feel that he has been “scare-mongering” on sensitive issues. Last February, German national Sonnteg Reiner Hermann, who had a tourist visa, was deported after he was found to have links with anti-Kudankulam protests.

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