SAARC revisits Visa Exemption Scheme

Eight South Asian countries, including India, approved a proposal to exempt 19 categories of people from visa requirement and agreed on a liberalised scheme.

Updated: Feb 09, 2011, 19:27 PM IST

Thimphu: Eight South Asian countries,
including India, on Wednesday approved a proposal to exempt 19
categories of people from visa requirement and agreed on a
liberalised scheme under which select journalists, business
persons and sportspersons can be given long-term multi-entry
visas after prior clearance.

A meeting of SAARC Foreign Ministers, attended by
External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, also endorsed India`s
proposal for setting up of a SAARC Forum, a grouping of
non-government officials which will act as a pressure group on
governments to enhance the integration.
Revisiting the SAARC Visa Exemption Scheme, the
meeting approved a proposal under which visa regime could be
liberalised for select journalists, business persons and
sports persons, sources said.

These three categories of people can be given
multi-entry visas for 90 days after prior clearance is taken,
they said.

People from 19 other categories, including members of
Parliament, diplomats and non-government people involved in
SAARC projects, will get SAARC stickers from the respective
Foreign Ministries exempting them from visa requirements, the
sources said.
The SAARC visa stickers would ensure that their travel
is not limited to any specific cities and would save them from
the hassles like police reporting and filling of extra forms
on entry in any of the eight SAARC countries.
The issuance of visa stickers would be the discretion
of the Foreign Ministries, they said.

The SAARC member countries also agreed on various
steps concerning the SAARC University, like early convening of
the Governing Board meeting, which has been delayed for long
as a result of which several crucial decisions have been
pending.

The Governing Board will now meeting early next month
which could set in motion the appointments to the Steering
Committee and firming up of rules and regulations for the
university, the sources said.

The President of the University, which has been
established in Delhi, will also be selected from India. The
government of India will nominate three eminent persons among
whom one person will be chosen by the Governing Board.
The meeting also approved India`s proposal for setting
up the South Asian Forum. The Steering Committee set up for
the purpose will meet in April to take the proposal forward.

In the field of trade, the Council of Ministers
decided that SAFTA ministerial meeting will take place in
Maldives in May to consider ways to enhance intra-regional
commerce.

The meeting took note of the fact that the intra-SAARC
trade has already cross one billion USD mark and there is
potential for raising it manifold, the sources said.
During the meeting, representatives of the respective
countries made presentations about what they are doing in
countering terrorism.

PTI