India is the only country that has exchanged physical blows with China. China – which is a country having the distinguished honour of being viewed as a hostile nation by countries around the world, however, has a better passport strength than India does. India’s rank has slipped by six places from last year to 90 now on the Henley Passport Index, which lists the world’s most travel-friendly passports. Japan and Singapore stood at the top of this year’s list, with their passports holders allowed to travel visa-free to 192 countries, while South Korea and Germany share the second position.
- What this means is that it has become all the more difficult for Indian passport holders to travel abroad on non-tourist visas.
- Already, Indians had to go through an incredible hassle to travel to countries that do not extend visa-on-arrival privileges to Indian travellers.
- With another drop in the Indian passport’s ranking, Indian travellers now find themselves being ranked alongside travellers from Burkino Faso, which is an African country riddled with extreme violence.
It is almost impossible for an aspiring Indian to travel to countries with the most powerful passports, without employing the services of an agent or visa agency that charge exorbitant fees for merely getting the paperwork in order. It is very unlikely that an individual will be able to get a non-tourist visa all by themselves. The next big focus of the Modi government should be on uplifting India’s passport ranking, which is currently dismal and in absolute contrast to the stature of India.
Indian Travellers Deserve Better
India has emerged as the fastest-growing economy in the world. India has broken Chinese jaws along the Indo-Tibetan border multiple times now. India is continuously vaccinating a record number of people daily. The countries at the top of the passport charts cannot even imagine vaccinating the number of people that India is jabbing daily. And then, India is also exporting vaccines, and when it is done vaccinating its citizens, will emerge as one of the largest contributors of vaccines worldwide.
India is a country without which global supply chains would stand disrupted. Americans, Britishers, Europeans – they all need India to run their businesses smoothly. Almost everything in the world has an Indian connection. Therefore, it makes no sense for Indian travellers to be crushed under the weight of international bureaucracy, which results in visa rejections for them at an unnatural level.
What Needs to Be Done?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi must make it a mission to improve the standing of the Indian passport internationally. This can be done by providing visa-on-arrival to many more countries and demanding that they do the same for Indians. In a post-pandemic world, where many people will be vaccinated with jabs made in India, it is only reasonable for India’s passport to be strengthened.
India also needs to act sternly when need be. Recently, as reported by TFI, India is all set to treat foreign tourists based on how their nations treat Indian travellers. As India looks to restart tourist visas and allow international tourists after a gap of one-and-a-half years, “reciprocal tourism” is set to become the new normal. The visa facilitation will depend on the applicant’s home country’s policy for the Indian tourists.
Reciprocal measures also need to be taken against countries that enjoy visa-on-arrival privileges in India but do not accord the same to Indian tourists. Rest assured, when such measures are taken, the countries in question will fall in line – like the United Kingdom did recently when it removed the 10-day mandatory quarantine policy for Indian travellers after India slapped it with similar measures.
India needs to understand that its passport’s strength will not rise without it fighting for it. The Modi government needs to take immediate steps to ensure that the Indian passport’s ranking improves significantly by next year. A good rank won’t just land on India’s lap. We need to work for it, and that mostly means that countries around the world need to be told that India deserves better.