India eases tourist visa requirements

Groups of four or more can have their visa applications processed together as long as their travel agent guarantees that the group does not split up during their trip

India is easing visa restrictions that were implemented earlier this year in retaliation for Denmark’s failure to extradite Niels Holck, who is charged with delivering arms to rebels.

According to the Ritzau news bureau, Danish tourists travelling in groups of four or more can apply through a travel agency for a collective visa valid for up to 60 days. The travellers have to provide the names of group members and a description of the journey’s purpose. The travel agency must guarantee that none of the tourists will leave the group during the journey.

According to Lars Thykier, managing director of travel agency association Danmarks Rejsebureau Forening, the stricter visa rules have cost India a large number of tourists.

“We’re happy with anything that makes it easier for tourists or business travellers to go to India,” Thykier told Ritzau. “It hasn’t been very easy and there was a need for change.”

Niels Holck, known in India as Kim Davy, is wanted for dropping weapons to rebel forces in the state of Perulia in 1995.

The Danish government initially decided to accept India’s extradition request, but his appeal was upheld by both Hillerød City Court and the Eastern High Court on the ground that Holck risked torture in Indian jails, and that no guarantees by the Indian government for his safe treatment could be trusted.

The Indian government has expressed disappointment at the government’s decision not to take the case to the Supreme Court and has been trying to find alternative ways to try Holck, such as establishing a temporary court in the Indian Embassy in Copenhagen.

The lack of progress in the case led India to first freeze trade relations with Denmark and then this February introduce a range of rules for Danish travellers seeking Indian travel visas.

The increased demands, such as making travellers demonstrate they have enough money to finance their journey, made the process of getting a visa more difficult and lead to a number of cancellations and delays to charter trips, according to Ritzau.

The Indian Embassy denied, however, that the new relaxed rules for group travel have anything to do with the Holck case.

“It is a general new policy that the Indian government has chosen to follow,” a spokesperson from the embassy told Ritzau. “We are easing visa rules in several countries and Denmark is one of them.”