NEW DELHI, April 23 - In an encouraging development, Centre has decided to relax the Protected Area Permit (PAP) regime from Nagaland, Mizoram and Manipur for five years with effect from April 1, official sources said.
�A review is underway to lift the PAP from other areas too,� the sources said. Citizens from Pakistan, China and Afghanistan, however, continue to be banned from all PAP areas, including Nagaland, Mizoram and Manipur.
With an aim to promote tourism, the Union Government, time to time by notification, exempts some of such restricted or protected areas from the need of special permission for foreigners to visit them. Necessary powers have been delegated to various authorities to issue such special permits without prior approval of Union Home Ministry to facilitate foreign tourists subject to certain exceptions, sources said.
Under the six-decade-old Foreigners (Protected Areas) Order, 1958, all areas falling between the Inner Line and the International Border of some States were declared as protected areas.
The protected areas currently include whole of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim, besides parts of Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir. Some parts of Sikkim fall under the protected area regime while others under the restricted area.
According to a December 30, 2010 Circular of the Union Ministry, Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland were excluded from the protected area regime initially for a period of one year from January 1, 2011, subject to some conditions. As per the guidelines, a foreign national is not normally allowed to visit a protected or restricted area unless the government is satisfied that there are extraordinary reasons to justify his or her visit.
Every foreigner, except a citizen of Bhutan, who desires to enter and stay in a protected or restricted area, is required to obtain a special permit from a competent authority having the power to issue such permits.
In cases, where the power to issue such permits has not been delegated to a subordinate authority by the Union Government, the application for special permit has to be referred to Home Affairs Ministry for prior approval, at least eight weeks before the date of the expected visit.
In cases of foreign diplomats, including members of United Nations and international organisations holding diplomatic or official passports, special permits to visit such protected or restricted areas are issued by the Ministry of External Affairs.
In cases of citizens of Afghanistan, China and Pakistan and foreign nationals of Pakistani origin, no permit, however, can be issued without prior approval of the Home Ministry.