INDIA is now offering Maldivian nationals free 90-day visas for medical tourism in a reversal of last year's tightening of visa regulations for this segment.
Medical visa holders will no longer be required to report to the Foreign Regional Registration Office for visas with under 180 days’ validity.
Parvez Dewan, secretary at the Ministry of Tourism said: “It is a major visa liberalisation measure for Maldivian nationals. Only two other countries, Nepal and Bhutan, are provided free visas.
“We expect the move will benefit south Indian cities like Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai and Trivandrum the most, because of the robust medical facilities available there and because the region is known for Ayurveda (wellness treatments).”
Relations between the two countries soured after the Maldives prematurely terminated the contract with India’s GMR Group for the management of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport.
India retaliated by tightening visa restrictions on the Maldives’ medical tourists (TTG Asia e-Daily, January 9, 2013).
Mohamed Nasser, Maldivian ambassador to India, remarked: “There are more than 20,000 Maldivians living in south India. Even last year, though we had visa issues, it didn’t deter Maldivians from travelling to India. However, with the help of this new visa regime, the number of Maldivians arriving in India will certainly increae as most of the Maldivians travelling to India are medical tourists.”
India registered 40,000 Maldivian arrivals in 2013.