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Long-term visas for Bangla students

New Delhi, Jan. 24: India has agreed to give long-term visas to Bangladeshi entrepreneurs and students in consonance with its improving ties with its neighbour. New Delhi has also done away with the two-month mandatory gap between two visits for Bangladeshi tourists.

The norms will be formalised when Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde signs the revised travel agreement (RTA) on January 28 in Dhaka. He will also sign an extradition pact while pressing for better execution of the mutual legal assistance treaty and the transfer of sentenced persons agreement.

Under the relaxed visa regime, Bangladeshi entrepreneurs and businessmen visiting India will get visas for up to five years that will be punctuated by mandatory home visits every few months, home ministry sources said.

This arrangement is in tune with New Delhi allowing the Bangladeshi business community to invest in “showrooms” and “banks” in India, government sources added. The sources, however, refused to elaborate on the nature of Bangladeshi investments in banks.

The business visas would be multiple-entry and so would be the student visas. “The commitment to increase trade between the two countries has led to these long-term visas,” said an official. Any visa that is of more than 180 days is considered long term.

In the case of students, many of whom study in Bengal, the visas will be for three years. The RTA will also make it possible for Bangladeshi patients being treated in Indian hospitals to have three entries a year instead of two. “This will be extendable to multiple entry,” said an official, adding that three attendants will be allowed to accompany the patients.

The exemption of the two-month gap between two visits for Bangladeshis on tourist visas is significant as the rule was made mandatory for all foreigners post-26/11. It was removed for most countries later, but not for persons of Bangladeshi and Pakistani origin and for visitors from China, Sudan and Afghanistan.

Officials said the RTA was part of a consistently improving relationship between the two countries since the Awami League came to power in 2008.