Infrastructure & Safety

Will push for second Delhi airport at right time: Sharma

DELHI

As tourism and culture minister and minister of state for civil aviation, Mahesh Sharma, 56, has his hands full. Only a few months into the job, he has a blueprint of what he wants to achieve in aviation. Topping his agenda is a push for a second airport for Delhi, granting visa on arrival to more countries and cutting delays by Air India Ltd as well as private airlines, reports Mint. Edited excerpts from an interview:

You have got the visa on arrival facility up and running. What more is being done on that front?

At present we have MoUs (memorandums of understanding) with 43 counties with which we started visa on arrival since 29 November. Since then, there has been a growth of 1,200%—68,000 people took visas. And if we add only six more countries to this list of 43— such as China, France, UK, Italy, Spain—we…(will cover) 62% of the tourist market of the world. Till now, we are covering 42% of the international tourist market. Now with the Prime Minister’s and finance minister’s vision of making it to 150 countries, you can very well imagine what will be the impact. Of these 68,000 visas, 32% was from the US alone.

There is a lot of concern that Indians don’t get visa on arrival when they go to foreign countries. Are you pushing for that?

My country’s policy I can define. I cannot force anybody else to define their policy. Definitely when we talk, we talk about bilaterals, that whenever we extend visa on arrival, we expect reciprocation from their side, but the choice is theirs.

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