Indian mission in South Africa to outsource visa services

August 18th, 2008 - 12:20 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Ambika Soni

By Fakir Hassen
Pretoria, Aug 18 (IANS) The Indian mission in South Africa will soon begin outsourcing visa services to prevent “annonying” delays for tourists, India’s Tourism and Culture Minister Ambika Soni said here. “Tourism between India and South Africa is growing, but I want it to grow faster,” Soni told IANS during her two-day visit to South Africa.

“My vision is that within 48 hours, anyone wanting to visit India must get a visa. Since 2006 there has been a focus on India, resulting in us developing new tourism products, making it more exciting for both types of travellers - the backpacker and the higher end tourist.

“We now have not only tourists on pilgrimage or who come to India to visit family, like many South Africans do, but also rural tourism, shopping tourism, and what is very, very popular is our Ayurvedic tourism. For the West Asian market, we are even developing monsoon tourism, so we are promoting India as a 365 days tourism destination.”

Soni signed a Programme of Cooperation in the fields of arts and culture with her South African counterpart Pallo Jordan to strengthen links in fields such as handicrafts, literature, music, dance and films.

“This agreement will facilitate further exchanges of artefacts, textiles, handicrafts and other art forms,” Soni told IANS.

At a cultural programme to celebrate India’s 62nd Independence Day, a dance group from the Radhakrishna Music and Dance Academy performed a modern interpretation of Mahatma Gandhi’s famous devotional song “Ragupathi raghava raja ram”.

Soni reacted to the interpretation by saying: “I don’t know how people who are devout singers of Gandhi’s bhajans would take to that, but that’s how you make people, ideologies, and value systems relevant to the younger generation; otherwise you would shut them out altogether.”

Soni, who had been an international observer here in 1993 and then during the first democratic elections in South Africa in 1994, said after visiting the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg that it had been a “particularly moving experience”.

During her stay, Soni attended a colourful reception on Aug 15 at the Indian high commission, hosted by High Commissioner Rajiv Bhatia on the occasion of the 62nd Independence Day.

She also led a march in Johannesburg Aug 16 to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s historic march against an oppressive discriminatory law in 1908. The event was attended by African National Congress (ANC) deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe and the arts and culture minister. A large number of community representatives and students also participated.

As part of the celebration, Soni led a walk from Museum Africa to the Hamidia Mosque in Fordsburg, where a symbolic bonfire of registration certificates took place. The original march was prompted by the Asiatic Law Amendment Ordinance of August 1906, requiring any person of Indian origin to register by a certain date or forego the right to live in then Transvaal province of South Africa.

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