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India, Russia close to inking visa pact
New Delhi, Mar 8 (IANS):
Published on 8 Mar. 2010 11:07 PM IST
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India and Russia are likely to ink a long-delayed visa pact that will ease the Russian visa regime to spur more contacts between businessmen of the two sides during the visit of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin Friday. “The visa facilitation agreement has been finalised,” reliable sources told IANS. Under this agreement, an Indian businessmen wishing to apply for a visa to Russia will require a certificate from an industry body like Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) or Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) confirming his bone fide credentials. The visa facilitation agreement is likely to be signed during Putin’s two-day trip to India, his first as a Russian prime minister. The agreement could give a big boost to business ties between India and Russia, whose economic engagement has not matched the level of political and strategic ties due to a host of issues. Russia’s stringent visa regime was widely considered as a major obstacle by Indian businessmen wishing to travel to that country to explore business opportunities. India and Russia are aiming to more than triple their bilateral trade to $20 billion by 2015. The two countries will also sign an umbrella civil nuclear agreement after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s talks with Putin Friday. The pact was initialled during Manmohan Singh’s trip to Moscow in December last year. A slew of defence contracts, including $2.34 billion deal for refit of aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, $1.2 billion deal for 29 more MiG-29K maritime fighters and the joint development of the stealth fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) are also likely to be finalised during Putin’s visit. Differences, however, remain on a second visa pact due to long-standing Russian insistence on including a redmission clause that stipulates India taking back those found travelling to Russia without valid papers. The Indian external affairs ministry has sent a draft of this visa pact to its Russian counterpart, the sources said. But the second visa pact may not come through as India is opposed to accepting any readmission clause. India has made it clear that it will not sign a readmission pact as it does not have a common border with Russia. New Delhi maintains that all the Indians were going to Russia on valid Indian passports and Russian entry visas. Russia has signed a readmission pact with the European Union as a pre-condition for easing EU visas for its nationals. Moscow is seeking a similar pact with India, which along with China, has been bracketed with those countries posing threat of illegal immigration.

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