- Two of India’s remotest islands, each less than five square kilometres in area on the western coast in Lakshadweep, have been designated as immigration check posts or ICPs by the home ministry in an effort to attract foreign luxury cruises.
- From June 30, the Agatti and Minicoy islands in Lakshadweep will offer direct entry into or exit from India for all classes of foreign passengers, the ministry has said in an order signed by joint secretary GK Dwivedi.
- Officials said the reason for creating one of India’s smallest ICPs in the twin islands, which are separated by nearly 200 km, is their enviable location on the route taken by nearly two dozen foreign cruises in the Arabian Sea which touch exotic destinations such as Maldives and Seychelles.
- Agatti has an area of just 3.84 sq km while Minicoy is slightly bigger with an area of 4.80 sq km. They lie on one of the busiest shipping routes and Minicoy is just 130 km from the northernmost island of Maldives.
- Presently, an international cruise cannot touch base directly at either of these islands and has to travel over 450 km to Kochi in the Indian mainland for immigration and customs clearance if it wishes to dock at Agatti and again go back to Kochi if the vessel has to go back to any foreign country after visiting Lakshadweep.
- International cruises, therefore, have to spend two-three more days travelling to and fro from Kochi at a higher cost and unsurprisingly have increasingly given the exotic Lakshadweep islands a miss in their itinerary.
- The government aims to protect the fragile ecosystem of these islands through this measure as tourists on international cruises will come and stay on the ships while visiting the islands only in the daytime.
Source:The Economic Times