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Rediff.com  » News » India may remove 60-day rule on re-entry for foreigners

India may remove 60-day rule on re-entry for foreigners

December 03, 2012 11:26 IST

The government of India may be rethinking its rule barring foreign visitors from coming back to India within 60 days of their earlier visit unless they take special permission from the embassies or consulates.

When the rule was initially introduced, then minister of state in external affairs ministry Shashi Tharoor had tweeted that terrorist Ajamal Kasab and his associates did not need visas to come to Mumbai to carry out the 26/11 attack.

Tharoor was widely criticised for his scathing comments.

Many foreign visitors were turned back after the government implemented this law.

But the government may have had a change of heart in this regard, according to sources at the Indian embassy in Washington DC.

The rule was imposed after it was found that David Coleman Headley, a Pakistani-American who helped the Lashkar-e-Tayiba launch the 26/11 attacks, had visited India several times using a multiple entry visa to plan the strikes.

The new rule affected several travelers and people of Indian origin. Foreigners who came with visas to India and a neighbouring country found that they could not return to India before a 60-day interval.

People of Indian origin, who needed to return to India for urgent matters like the illness or death of a family member, found it difficult to do so. After a hue and cry over the new rule, a special entry visa for Indians was established.

Benoy Thomas, former secretary of the Federation of Indian Associations and Federation of the Malayalee Associations of America, welcomed the Indian government's decision, noting that the organisations had been working for the removal of the rule ever since it came into force.

Dr Ramdas Pillai, former president of Kerala Hindus of North America, was one of those who had been sent back from India due to the new rule.

"Did India gain anything by refusing entry based on an irrational law? Are sons of the soil and foreigners the same? If the rule is meant to prevent the entry of terrorists like Headley, can they not wait for two months to go ahead with their operations," he said.

Pillai, president and CEO of Nuphoton Technologies in California and managing director of VinVish Technologies in Technopark, Thiruvanantapuram, had traveled to India in July 2010 for business as well as to attend to his ailing mother.

He had earlier traveled to Cochin on June 14 and returned on June 27, 2010.

He went back to India on July 27, when he took an Emirates flight from Los Angeles to Delhi.

Earlier, he had taken permission to travel to India within the 60-day period, in February. But during his visit in July, the officer at the immigration stated that the permission was valid for only a single entry, even though it was mentioned nowhere and the permission had no expiry date.

Pillai's arguments to the contrary failed to make any headway with the immigration officials. Hewas sent back by the same flight.

People like Pillai have noted that they take citizenship in other countries for many reasons, but that does not mean they have forsaken India.

"Irrespective of wherever we live, our hearts and minds are in India," they note.

George Jospeh