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Sushma swamped by requests, so India asks Pakistan to endorse patients for treatment

LiveMint logoLiveMint 10-05-2017 Elizabeth Roche

New Delhi: India has asked Pakistan to endorse all its nationals wishing to travel to India to avail of medical care facilities offered in the country, the Indian government said on Wednesday.

The aim of the demand is to ensure that genuine and needy patients get medical care and attention, the Indian foreign ministry said.

“What has happened is that external affairs minister (Sushma Swaraj) herself was receiving these requests from Pakistani nationals addressed to her... She was receiving these requests on emails and social media and to ascertain that these are genuine requests, what we have suggested to Pakistan is that their foreign minister or foreign affairs advisor to the Pakistani prime minister sends a recommendation letter that this is the patient and they want to get treatment done in India,” said Gopal Baglay, spokesman of the Indian foreign ministry.

“It is very difficult to make decisions based on requests received by emails and on social media,” he said. “How do we know they require medical treatment in India? If the foreign policy advisor sends a letter, then we will immediately issue the visa,” he said.

According to a recent survey on export of health services by directorate general of commercial intelligence and statistics, under the commerce ministry, the highest average earnings per patient through export of health services from India comes from Pakistan at $2,906.

Pakistan is followed by Bangladesh ($2,084), CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) countries ($1,950), Russia ($1,618) and Iraq ($1,530), according to the survey.

This means a patient from Pakistan visiting a hospital in India spends more than people from any other country, boosting India’s foreign exchange reserves.

But the number of medical visas issued to Pakistani patients in 2015-16 stood at a measly 1,921 compared to 58,360 to patients from Bangladesh and 29,492 to patients from Afghanistan.

Due to the low number of medical visas issued, Pakistan contributed only $6 million to India’s services exports compared to $343 million by Bangladesh in 2015-16.

Pakistani nationals can get visitor visas of six months to meet relatives or friends or any other legitimate purpose and the duration of stay in India at a time shall not exceed three months.

“However, senior citizens (above 65 years of age) or a Pakistan national married to an Indian and their children below 12 years of age accompanying parents may be granted two years’ visit visa with multiple entries subject to certain conditions,” minister of state in the ministry of home affairs Kiren Rijiju said in response to a question in Rajya Sabha earlier this month.

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