India will sign a pact with Bangladesh to ease visa restrictions for citizens from the neighbouring country. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on “revised travel arrangements” will be signed during Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s three-day visit to Dhaka beginning Friday.
Bangladesh has demanded that travel restrictions for senior citizens be eased and further concessions be given to Muktijoddhas — those who participated in the 1971 Liberation War.
Last year, India announced five-year multiple entry visa to the 1971 war veterans from Bangladesh. They could walk into the Indian High Commission in Dhaka and eight other consulates in Barisal, Rajshahi, Chittagong, Khulna, Rangpur, Sylhet Mymensingh and Jessore without prior appointment and submit their visa applications. Citizens from over 150 countries can travel to India on e-Tourist visas procured online. This facility is not extended to Bangladesh.
“The visa rules for senior citizens would be relaxed further and they could visit India more frequently. Similarly for Muktijoddhas , we will ensure smooth travel. There will be facilitation desks to help such applicants,” said a senior government official.
In 2014, India decided to relax visa restrictions for Bangladeshi nationals above the age of 65 and below the age of 13. They were allowed five-year multiple entry visas as against the one-year visa available earlier.
India has on several occasions raised the issue of influx of illegal migrants from Bangladesh.
Bangladesh diplomatic sources said senior citizens were unlikely to stay illegally in India. “The rules for senior citizens should be relaxed as they need to visit India on multiple occasions for medical purposes. When they arrive in India, rules should be eased for them and they should not be inconvenienced,” a diplomat said.
As per the Home Ministry, of all the medical visas issued in 2016, the largest number — 99,799 was given to Bangladeshis, followed by 33,955 to Afghanistan and 2,315 to those from Sri Lanka.
During the visit, Mr. Singh is expected to meet Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and discuss various bilateral issues.
In his meeting with Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan, Mr. Singh will discuss ways to strengthen the anti-terror mechanism between the two countries.
Another MoU will be signed on training of police officers from Bangladesh in India.