New Delhi: If the strength of the Indian passport is any indication, globetrotting efforts of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to boost the country’s international image hardly seem to be succeeding. In the latest third-quarter Henley Passport Index, India ranks a low 86 — a drop of seven places in the past six months. The Henley Passport report calculates strengths of passports across the globe.
What makes this statistic even worse is that multiple nations can occupy a single rank, which means the number of countries having stronger passports than India is actually more than 85.
Japan and Singapore are at the top of this list while Finland, South Korea and Germany on the second spot. Both the US and the UK have been ranked sixth.
The index, prepared by Henley & Partners and based on data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), ranks “passports according to the number of destinations a holder can access without a prior visa”.
The firm provides consultancy to wealthy individuals and their advisers on residence and citizenship planning.
Indians currently enjoy visa-free access to only 58 destinations.
India’s fluctuating trends
India needs to make a considerable jump before its citizens can avail more visa-free travel globally. Its performance on the index also keeps fluctuating. In 2014, the country was ranked 76th but it dropped to 85 in 2016 before moving up to 81 in 2018.
In the latest survey, India ranks last among its BRICS counterparts, which includes some major growing economies. Brazil leads the way with a rank of 18 and visa-free access to 169 countries this year. Russia comes next with a rank of 51, followed by South Africa at 54 – both nations have visa-free access to 116 and 99 countries respectively.
China performs better than India with a rank of 74 and visa-free access to 70 countries.
A note on methodology
A score of one is allotted to any passport for every travel destination where its holder doesn’t require a visa. This includes “visa on arrival, a visitor’s permit, or an electronic travel authority (ETA) upon entry,” says the report.
It adds that a score of 0 is assigned for every destination where a visa, a pre-departure government approved e-visa, or a pre-departure approval for a visa on arrival is required.
The report further states that there is a “direct link between visa openness and progressive reform…countries moving towards nationalist isolationism and away from policies that encourage visa openness are likely to drop”.
Speaking to ThePrint, Arun Kumar Singh, former Indian ambassador to the US, said, “We should not pay much attention to this report. This is clearly because of the country’s population size. There is both skilled and unskilled illegal migration taking place from India. Every nation, for its own reasons, wants to control the number of people it wants to permit.”