To boost tourism in the northeast, the government has withdrawn restrictions imposed on foreign tourists travelling to the picturesque region.
The home ministry has allowed free movement of foreign tourists to the three northeastern states of Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland by suspending a decades-old rule under which foreign nationals had to take mandatory permission from authorities for visits.
Citizens of Pakistan, China, Afghanistan and Myanmar will not enjoy the benefit of the latest order, which would initially be applicable for a year, a home ministry official said.
Travel to these states will now be easier but tourists will still have to register themselves with the foreigners registration officers of the districts concerned within 24 hours of arrival.
The much needed move to liberalise travel rules is expected to boost tourism in the northeast which is rich in natural diversity and has high potential for adventure tourism.
The central government and states are eyeing a substantial market -- with about 58,000 foreign tourists visiting the northeast last year -- up by 18 per cent from 2011.
Officials expect a 25 per cent increase of tourist arrivals within a year after the relaxation of rules.
Under the Foreigners (Protected Areas) Order 1958, all areas in Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim and parts of Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand are declared ‘protected areas’. Foreign nationals need permission to visit these areas.