RIYADH: Ghazanfar Ali Khan
Published — Monday 7 October 2013
Last update 7 October 2013 5:47 pm
India has announced plans to extend a visa-on-arrival facility to Saudis, Omanis and Emiratis in a bid to make the country a more tourist-friendly destination and promote foreign exchange earnings.
A meeting, to be attended by top officials, will be held in New Delhi on Monday to discuss the plan and its feasibility.
“This is an important step that will go a long way in promoting direct contact between Saudi Arabia and India,” said Sibi George, deputy chief of Indian mission in Riyadh. “The Indian Embassy is awaiting formal communication from the government.”
More than 36,000 Saudis, including businessmen and tourists, visit India annually, he said. George is hopeful that the number of Saudis visiting India will surge in the years to come.
Once approved by the government, the new visa system will attract more Saudi tourists, he said. “It will also further strengthen bilateral ties in different sectors, especially in tourism and higher education.”
“The plan to grant visa upon arrival to Saudi citizens is a major concession,” said Anwar Karim, an Indian tour operator. “Embassies in Riyadh often take many days or even weeks to grant visas to Saudi nationals.”
Rajeev Shukla, India’s planning minister, said the meeting in New Delhi could help in garnering more foreign exchange and containing the current account deficit.