New Delhi: Reflecting recent strains with Maldives, India has tightened its visa regulations for the citizens of the island nation. Maldivian nationals now intending to stay in India for more than 90 days for medical, study or any other purpose have to obtain appropriate visa otherwise they may face deportation as there is no provision in India for extending the visit visa or converting to any other type.
In a notice, the Indian High Commission in Male also said, "due to technical reasons, the HCI will henceforth require one week's processing time to issue visas for travel to India. The applicants are advised to plan their travel and apply for visa well in time to avoid inconvenience. It is also informed to the general public that visa free travel facilities to India, available to Maldivian citizens, are valid for tourism purpose only. For any other purpose, people are advised to apply and obtain the appropriate visas before travelling to India."
The tightening comes at a time when the bilateral ties are at all-time low in the wake of anti-India protests in Maldives followed by termination of GMR airport project by the government there 'unilaterally'. Significantly, there have been many discrepancies between the visa issuance process of the two countries. While India grants all types of visas on gratis, Maldives charges fee on different type of visas and hefty fines in case of delay in renewal.
Maldives also have tough rules on granting visas to Indians including having a return ticket and expenditure of at least $100 per day during the visit. "The agreement that grants 90 days free visa for Indians and Maldivians came into effect in 1979. We have not been questioning the purpose of travel of Maldivians to India. But unfortunately the reverse is not true. The Maldivian authorities have enforced the agreement in the strictest of terms. Nearly 50 Indians are denied entry, detained and deported every year," an HCI official said.
He also added that India has been flexible in implementing the agreement but such flexibility has not been reciprocated by Maldives. "It takes two hands for a handshake," he said.