Beijing: China today welcomed India’s plans to grant visa-on-arrival facility to Chinese tourists, but did not commit to a reciprocal gesture for Indians visiting the country in large numbers.
“We welcome this,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters here.
Hua was responding to reports from India that an announcement in this regard will be made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his China visit in May.
Asked if China would reciprocate India’s gesture to facilitate more people-to-people exchanges, Hua did not commit anything.
“We are willing to work with the Indian side to facilitate the personal exchanges between the two countries and promote mutual understanding and mutual trust between two people and lay solid foundation for the bilateral cooperation,” she said.
India plans to add China to the list of 43 countries which are granted the facility, as it is organising ‘Visit India’ year across China to woo more tourists, who have already neared the 100-million mark this year.
Indian security agencies, however, expressed reservations and suggested a cautious approach in taking the final decision on including China.
Chinese officials say that such a move would send a message that China treats India as a friendly neighbour and promotes better images of the Chinese people.
Many countries, including the US, have made a strong pitch to attract Chinese tourists, who have spent USD 102-billion worldwide last year, according to state media reports.
Indian official say just about 1.74 lakh Chinese visited India last year, prompting India to step up its ‘Incredible India Campaign’ to attract more tourists.
A number of initiatives like organising a Buddhist travel circuit were being considered.
The visa-on-arrival (TVoA) facility was expected to project India as a favoured destination, as Chinese tourist arrivals in Sri Lanka and Maldives increased significantly in recent years.
Over six lakh Indians visited China last year, far more than Chinese tourists arrivals in India.
For its part, China has announced a 72-hour visa-free stay for travellers from 42 countries in 2013, but India, Pakistan and the rest of South Asian neighbours were conspicuously absent from the list.
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