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India, Myanmar to relax ‘land’ visa norms

Bid to promote cross-border movement

In a major fillip to connectivity between the North-Eastern States and Myanmar, visa norms will be relaxed for land border crossing through Moreh (Manipur) and Tamu (Myanmar) from this month.

India and Myanmar signed an agreement in this regard during the visit of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to Myanmar last May.

Formal function

According to sources in Manipur, the missions of both countries will hold a ceremony at Moreh-Tamu border, tentatively between August 8 and 11, to mark the relaxation of visa norms.

It will coincide with the inauguration of the passenger terminal of the newly-built integrated check-post at Moreh. India has already mobilised immigration and Customs officials at the checkpost.

Currently, Indians travelling to Myanmar requires to apply for permit to Yangon, which takes 20-30 days to arrive. Once the permit is available, the traveller can apply for visa. Also, for land travel, Indians have to pay $40 for a tour guide, over and above the visa fees. According to Thokchom Jotin Singh, General-Secretary of Manipur Chamber of Commerce, under the new norms, Myanmar will scrap the provision for permit on land travel, making it easier for both tourists and business travellers to take the land route.

Boost for trade

“The new visa norms will give a major boost to the trade ties between the North-East and Myanmar,” Singh told BusinessLine. Traders in Manipur currently import pulses and yellow corn (animal feed) from Myanmar.

Imphal-based Lamjingba group, which offers a wide range of services including online retail, finance, cab service etc, has approached the government for permit to run 50-seater chartered flights between Manipur and Mandalay (Myanmar).

The Indian mission in Myanmar has been advocating flight services between Mandalay and North-Eastern cities for quite some time. Currently, the two countries have only commercial air connectivity between Kolkata and Yangon.

Medical tourism

Improved connectivity will also help Manipur to attract patients from Myanmar to the super-speciality hospitals in the State.

Manipur witnessed significant investment in healthcare over the last decade. The former Okram Ibobi Singh government built a new medical college. Some private hospitals have also come up, which attract medical tourists in the region.

According to Kh Palin, who runs the 200-bed Shija Hospitals, arguably the best of such facilities in Imphal, the flow from Myanmar has been low in the recent past owing to political unrest, visa restrictions and security concerns.

Source: The Hindu Business Line

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