Access to forbidden areas likely for foreign tourists except from Pak, China

Foreign tourists, except those from Pakistan and China, may soon be allowed to visit some of the most pristine locations of the country, kept out of bound so far for them without a special permit.

The Union home ministry is examining whether to relax the six-decade-old Restricted Area Permit regime, under which foreigners must obtain a special permission to visit Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and parts of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan and Jammu and Kashmir among others.

“Discussions are on with the state governments to relax the Restricted Area Permit provisions for some areas for foreign tourists,” said Union Minister of State for Home, Kiren Rijiju.

The Ministry of Home Affairs will coordinate with other agencies and the state governments to identify the possible locations for which the Protected Area Permit and the Restricted Area Permit provisions may be relaxed.

The protected areas currently include whole of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim, besides parts of Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir. Some parts of Sikkim fall under the protected area regime while others under the restricted area. At present any foreigner, except a citizen of Bhutan, is required to obtain a special permit from a competent authority to enter the protected area.