Indian minister disputes government new policy on tightening visa norms

16:31, December 28, 2009      

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India's Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor, often known for courting controversy, has yet again stirred a row after he contradicted the country's government on tightening of visa rules for foreigners on social networking site Twitter.

Questioning whether the new rules would strengthen security mechanism as those carried out last November's Mumbai terror attacks had no visas, Tharoor wrote on Twitter: "(The) issue is not security versus tourism, but whether visa restrictions protect our security. Nov. 26 killers had no visas," he posted his statement on Sunday.

"Dilemma of our age: tough visa restrictions in hope of better security or openness and liberality to encourage tourism and goodwill? I prefer latter. Is all that worth it just in the hope of making it difficult for a future (David Coleman) Headley to recce? Are we going two allow terrorists to make us less welcoming?" he said.

Headley is a U.S. citizen of Pakistani origin who has been arrested by the FBI for suspected role in the Mumbai attacks and for allegedly planning new attacks in India and Denmark.

He was reported to have frequently visited India in his preparation for terror attacks, raising alarm in India that the visa issuance control needed to be tightened against foreigners.

The Minister's statement is in contradiction to the stand taken by the government.

On November 4, the Indian Home Ministry had issued a directive that foreign nationals having a long-term multientry Indian tourist visa must have a mandatory two-month gap between two visits, which irked both the U.S. and Britain who termed it "arbitrary and ad-hoc".

Source: Xinhua
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