India To Open Up Restricted Areas To Foreign Tourists Other Than Those From China And Pakistan The Sela Pass, heading into Tawang. (Saurabhgupta8/Wikipedia)

The government may soon allow foreign tourists, except those from Pakistan and China, to visit some of the most sensitive areas in the country, including Arunachal Pradesh, kept out of bound so far for those without a special permit.

The Ministry of Home Affairs is currently considering a proposal to relax the six-decade-old Restricted Area Permit policy, under which foreigners are barred from visiting sensitive areas without special permission.

In Arunachal, the government is looking to increase tourist inflow to Tawang. The town, which is claimed by China, is home to Galden Namgey Lhatse, the second largest Buddhist monastery in the world after the Potala Palace in Tibet. The government will grant tourists visiting Arunachal permits to protected areas for a period of five years, instead of the two-year permits that were allowed earlier.

Areas out of bond for foreign tourists include whole of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim, and parts of Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir. Some parts of Sikkim fall under the protected area regime while others under the restricted area.

The effort to promote tourism, create job opportunities for the locals and generate revenue for the state is being seen as the main driver of this change.

The Ministry of Tourism has welcomed the move. "We wrote to MHA two years ago asking for easier norms to allow more tourists to visit Arunachal Pradesh. Easing these norms will facilitate tourism and allow more people to be able to see far flung places,” Tourism Minister K J Alphons has said.

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