The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has relaxed the Protected Area Permit (PAP) for foreigners visiting Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland, except for those from Pakistan, Afghanisthan and China. The PAP will be valid for five years. These areas constitute some of the most pristine locations of the country which had been out of bounds till now for them without a special permit. The six decade old PAP regime from these areas has been relaxed from April 1, 2018.
Under the Foreigners (Protected Areas) Order, 1958, all areas falling between the Inner line and the International Border of some states were declared as protected areas. These areas 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 also fall under the protected area regime.
It is believed that the government might lift PAP from other areas as well. The guidelines in place earlier did not allow a foreign national to visit a protected or restricted area unless the government is satisfied that there are extraordinary reasons to justify his or her visit. Foreigners, except citizens of Bhutan, if want to stay in a protected or restricted area, have to get a special permit from an authority with the power to issue such permits.
In cases of the citizens of Afghanistan, China and Pakistan and foreign nationals of Pakistani origin, no permit, however, can be issued without the prior approval of the Union Home Ministry.