Travelling abroad, particularly to the developed world is a real pain in the neck. While Malaysians and Singaporeans and South Africans and Brazilians sail through most immigration departments with no need for a visa for at least short visits, no country appears ready to let us enter their soil without a visa.
Our peripatetic Prime Minister has made it possible for many visitors to come to India without a visa (or has he? The e visa is a visa, it requires all the procedures and documentation, and you just get it stamped in the airport that is all). There was brouhaha about Canada having now allowed Indians to get a visa on arrival. This is not true. What they have done is allowed us to do all the paperwork and come with a document which allows the visa to be stamped at the entrance port, the hassles remain the same.
If you google visa free entry for Indians you will find that around 54 countries allow visa free entry or allow you to get a visa on arrival. These are countries that you would seldom visit anyway, honorable exceptions being Indonesia, Thailand, Kenya and Ecuador. Philippines which allows more than a 100 countries entry without a visa, (including Nepal and Bangladesh) bars Indians for some reason.
I recently visited Spain. The visa process took me all of 2 weeks; they wanted to know my income, my itinerary, my hotels, my flight tickets and finally my contract with my employer as well. And all this for my passport which has at least 4 past Schengen visas, and visas to the US, UK, Australia and China. I wonder what they do to people who are visiting Europe for the first time. I was told by friends that Spain is a little bureaucratic (read stupid). I must admit that it was a lot easier to get a Schengen visa from the Austrian embassy a couple of years ago.
Surprisingly, the USA and the UK are reasonably well organized in the business of visas. The US, in fact often gives a ten year visa if you meet set criteria. And they are the sensible people who don’t need you to change your visa if your passport has changed.
So what is with this bar to Indians? (And Chinese?) Is it that the sections of our society have flooded the lands with illegal immigrants? Judging by the preponderance of Hindi speakers among the souvenir sellers around the Eiffel tower one would definitely think so. Even so, if the Europeans are ok to welcome Syrians with at least half open arms, why should they be so scared of a flood of illegal Indians? At least they would be hardworking, intelligent and Saudi Arabia would not offer to build mosques for them?
Why cannot the Indian foreign office negotiate with these countries to allow at least short term visa free entry so that bona fide tourists are not required to submit all sorts of documents and face the harassment of fingerprinting every time they want a visa? And when I say visa free, I mean visa free, or least a genuine visa on arrival, where you reach the airport and they give you a visa, no questions asked, even if for a fee.
I was approached by an agent who offered to get me passport from one of the Caribbean islands if I was willing to invest what seemed to be not very large amount in the island. I was tempted, but India does not ( yet) allow dual citizenship and being a foreign citizen has all sorts of difficulties in India though the PIO cards have made life a lot easier.
Or shall we travel in India instead? That is the sensible solution: cheaper, superb destinations and good food. Why am I going abroad in the first place?