Sri Lanka and India have agreed to bilateral consular dialogue to discuss the visa on arrival facility that would lead to a visa-free regime between the two countries, the Defence Ministry reported today qouting state media as saying.
India’s High Commissioner in Colombo Ashok K. Kantha said that Sri Lanka and India must work towards a visa-free regime since a two-way flow of tourists reinforces friendly ties between the two countries.
He said India’s policy has been to facilitate Sri Lankan travellers to India with a liberal visa regime for all types of travellers – pilgrims, tourists and the business community with almost everyone being issued visas within one working day.
“We are progressively moving towards a visa on arrival regime with some countries,” he said adding that Sri Lanka is one of them. Asked if the visa free travel between the two countries would be a reality, he said that it is definitely within the realm of possibility and this is something we need to encourage.” He said the Government will work out the modalities of the arrangement.
“But that’s an objective we need to move towards. Especially, between two friendly countries such as India and Sri Lanka, we should have a very smooth movement of people, goods, ideas and investment. This is something we need to encourage,” he said.
He said Sri Lanka should also be more ambitious in tapping the Indian tourist sector.
“Indians are travelling overseas in larger numbers.”
Nearly one-fifth of foreign tourist arrivals in Sri Lanka are from India. Kantha said the number of tourists from India to Sri Lanka at present is a small fraction of the actual figure.
“If more than one million Indians can travel to Singapore and Thailand every year, I don’t see why the number of Indian tourists visiting Sri Lanka should be less than 200,000, since Sri Lanka has so much to offer as a tourist destination.