Ministry seeks to ease Sikkim, Arunachal travel for foreigners

Till now tourists need to apply for travel documents such as the protected area permit (PAP) and the restricted area permit (RAP) before visiting Arunachal Pradesh and parts of Sikkim. And, now, as part of its plans to attract more tourists, the government is proposing to remove restrictions for foreigners who want to travel to these destinations.

The restrictions can be removed only if the home ministry and the defence ministries approve the proposal since some areas in the north-east are considered sensitive due to a long history of insurgency in the region.

“The ministry has proposed opening up the north-east for tourists. In the last six months the government has opened up many restricted areas and if the plan in the north-east works, then many more border areas can be opened up,” said K J Alphons, Union Minister for State for Tourism. The ministry proposed the plan on May 17 at a meeting with senior home and defence ministry officers.

“The states too need to be consulted and as of now we cannot give a deadline for this. However, over the past six months we have been working very fast on this,” Alphons told PTI.

The ministry also has plans to propose removal of travel restrictions from border areas in Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir, and Himachal Pradesh.

The whole of Arunachal Pradesh is under the protected area permit rule, and no foreigner can enter or stay in the state without the document. Even if the rules are eased, citizens from Pakistan and China may still need to apply for the permit.