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Visiting Ladakh, Sikkim becomes easier for Bangladeshis

  • Published at 05:27 pm March 29th, 2018
  • Last updated at 02:41 am March 30th, 2018
Visiting Ladakh, Sikkim becomes easier for Bangladeshis
Hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshis visit India every year. But many parts of India require special permits to visit. In order to make these regions more accessible to tourists, the Indian government has decided to reduce restrictions in Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh’s Lahaul-Spiti or Kinnaur Valley. Tourists will no longer require any permits to visit these areas. On Tuesday, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs KirenRijiju said: “We will provide this service to tourists from every country except China and Pakistan. India finds the highest number of tourists from Bangladesh. So it can be assumed that this facility will greatly benefit Bangladeshi citizens.” Due to prevailing issues in the regions mentioned above, tourists required special permits to visit them. The procedure to obtain the permits discouraged many people from visiting Arunachal, Tawang-Bomdila, or Sikkim’s Yumthang Valley and Gurudongmar Lake, as well as Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir. Kiren said the central government and provincial governments have already started discussing the withdrawal of this permit requirement. “Since Arunachal Pradesh is very excited to welcome tourists without permits, it will probably be the first to introduce the new system,” the minister added. Gradually, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, and parts of Rajasthan, will also come under the permit-free travel system following Arunachal’s lead. The Home Ministry and the provinces are now discussing how foreign tourists will be monitored under the new system. [caption id="attachment_255868" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Mountains and Pangong tso (Lake). It is huge lake in Ladakh altitude 4350 metres (14270 ft). It is 134 km (83 mi) long and extends from India to Tibet. Leh Ladakh Jammu and Kashmir India | Bigstock[/caption] It is not a mystery that Pakistani and Chinese tourists are excluded from this facility. But the matter of expanding this facility for Bangladeshi tourists is considered to be very significant. Because India’s central government so far has viewed Bangladeshi citizens coming to India “with suspicion.” For example, when foreigners return from India, they can take up to Rs10,000 in Indian currency with them. Only two countries – Bangladesh and Pakistan – are deprived of this facility. And that is why in 2016, when India declared  Rs500 and Rs1000 bills void, Bangladeshi citizens could not exchange currencies legally, unlike citizens of Nepal and Bhutan. Although the Reserve Bank of India put Bangladeshi and Pakistani citizens on the same level, India cannot consider excluding Bangladesh from tourism. Tourism Secretary RashmiVerma said: “First, most foreign tourists coming to India are from Bangladesh. Their numbers range from 1.6 million to 1.8 million per year. It has been two years since Bangladeshi tourist numbers surpassed American visitors. Their numbers are increasing day by day. If Bangladeshis are excluded from this facility, then this whole plan falls apart,” she added. Kiren too believes the initiative will help further develop people-to-people contact between Bangladeshis and Indians. He noted: “There are many beautiful places in India which were once a far-flung dream for foreign tourists. The new system will open up new possibilities for them.” This article was first published on banglatribune.com