SAARC Visa: A Case For Regional Integration – Analysis

By Sabah Ishtiaq
Eurasia Review, 19 November 2015

“It is harder to travel within the SAARC region than to Bangkok or Singapore”, remarked Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 18th SAARC summit held in Kathmandu, Nepal. The need for a SAARC visa has been deliberated over the years among its member countries.
The SAARC Visa Exemption Scheme was launched in 1992, which currently allows 24 categories of entitled persons that include Dignitaries, Judges of higher courts, Parliamentarians, Senior Officials, Businessmen, Journalists, Athletes etc to travel without taking visas of the countries they visit. This scheme was a product of the discussions that took place during the 1988 Summit held in Islamabad. Realizing the importance of having people-to-people contacts among the citizens of SAARC countries, the leaders from the member countries of SAARC decided that certain categories of dignitaries will be entitled to a Special Travel document, which would exempt them from visa within the region.