As India celebrated Diwali on Thursday, the government had a gift for those awaiting medical visas, saying it would give the go-ahead for all deserving candidates.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted:
On the auspicious occasion of Deepawali, India will grant medical Visa in all deserving cases pending today. @IndiainPakistan
— Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) October 19, 2017
The previous day, Swaraj said a medical visa had been approved for a Pakistani woman, who had wanted to undergo liver surgery in India.
Despite frosty relations between the bitter neighbours, India has adopted a sympathetic approach in granting medical visas to Pakistani citizens, as a cursory glance at Swaraj's tweets would attest.
But Pakistanis aren't the only foreign nationals visiting India for medical assistance. For years, India has been a hub for medical tourism, with people from across the globe coming to India to avail of the considerably cheaper medical facilities India has to offer.
If people seeking medical help approach India instead of the US, they are likely to save at least 65 percent on their medical expenditure and as much as 90 percent. In other words, Americans can get treated in India at just 10 percent of they would pay in their home nation.
The savings on medical treatment in India are greater compared to other medical tourism hubs including Malaysia, Thailand, Costa Rica and Turkey.
The government appears to be doing its bit to boost India's profile as a medical tourism hub.
Apart from upgrading existing healthcare facilities and setting up new ones, the government announced that 49 more cancer centres would be created.
The Union Tourism Ministry offers financial support to accredited Medical and Wellness Tourism Service Providers,
In July, data presented by the Union Home Ministry in the Rajya Sabha showed that India had issued 45 percent more medical visas in 2016 compared to the previous year. Nearly 1.80 lakh foreigners visited India in 2016 for medical treatment, up from 1.22 lakh the previous year.
A Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) report titled “India Services Sector—A Multi-trillion Dollar Opportunity for Global Symbiotic Growth 2017” stated that the presence of world-class hospitals and skilled medical professionals has bolstered India’s position as a preferred destination for medical tourism.
It estimated that medical tourism in India will become a USD 8 billion industry by 2020.