Ladakh, one of the most spectacular places in India, has now become much easier for foreign tourists to visit. The Narendra Modi government has overruled security agencies to ease permit conditions at the behest of Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti to improve tourism to places like Pangong Tso and Nubra Valley.
Earlier, all foreign nationals had to apply in groups of two or more through a registered travel agent to get access to visit the restricted regions of Ladakh including Tso Moriri and the Dah-Hanu villages. But with the new directive, all foreign nationals, except of Pakistani, Afghan and Chinese origin (they still require prior access from the Centre), will be granted the Protected Area Permit (PAP) and Restricted Area Permit (RAP). These permits too are available within 10 days of application, subject to background checks, as against the earlier 30-day duration. They will also now be able to apply only 30 days prior to travel, as opposed to the earlier 60-day limit.
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From now on, the concerned state government will be issuing the permission for travel.
“The applications for special permits were referred to the home ministry in places where the powers were not delegated to state authorities. We have decided to delegate powers to subordinate authority to issue a RAP and PAP in other areas as well,” the official told ET.
Besides Leh and other parts of Ladakh, the home ministry has issued guidelines for relaxation of permit norms in Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Andaman and Nicobar Islands in a bid to promote India tourism. The home ministry, however, cautioned the state government to issue permits only for “tourist” and “religious” places. “Foreign tourists will not be allowed to visit any border areas or a place where key infrastructure is located,” a senior home ministry official said on condition of anonymity.