A year after Kabul fell to the Taliban, Afghan students’ wait for Indian visas continues


Restrictions have tightened since the United States left and the Taliban came to power last year. (Representative photo)

New Delhi:

About 2,500 students in Afghanistan continue to wait for any movement from the Indian side to grant them visas to continue their studies in the country. As the Taliban took control of Afghanistan last year on August 15, India suspended all visas. Since then, India has only issued around 300 visas and these have largely been for Afghan Sikhs and Hindus, minorities who have been persecuted.

India restarted its Afghan embassy operations in June, but it is not full fledged and has made no difference to the visa waiting list.

Afghan Ambassador to India Farid Mamundzay told reporters in Delhi that there was “a need for flexibility in the visa regime”. He said the matter had been taken up with the Indian side but they are still waiting to receive a response.

Currently, there are about 14,000 Afghan students in India studying at 73 universities and other institutes. They were all in India before Kabul fell to the Taliban as the United States withdrew and its backed government collapsed.

Those due to travel last year had their visas revoked amid chaos in their country – at a time when Afghans were desperate to leave their country anyway.

When Kabul fell

Indian embassy staff were evacuated on August 17, two days after the fall of Kabul. A statement from the Indian side said: “As regards Afghan nationals, our visa services will continue through an online emergency visa service, which has been extended to Afghan nationals. This is accessible via our e-visa portal.

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Existing visas were canceled after the Taliban took over Kabul as many Afghans desperately sought to leave. (Representative photo)

Eight days later, a statement from the Interior Ministry said that “visas previously issued to all Afghan nationals, who are currently not in India, are invalidated with immediate effect.”

He added that “due to the prevailing security situation in Afghanistan and the streamlining of the visa process through the introduction of the e-Emergency X-Misc visa, it has been decided that all Afghan nationals must now travel to India only with an e-Visa”.

slow recovery

Meanwhile, Afghans who used to come to India for treatment are now heading to Pakistan and Iran. Around 50,000 Afghans reportedly travel to India each year before last year for medical treatment. There were 15 weekly flights which are now reduced to two, which also have hardly any passengers.

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Since August last year, most Afghan Sikhs and Hindus have been granted Indian visas due to persecution. (Case)

In June this year, India restarted the operations of its embassy in Kabul by deploying a technical team there. The Foreign Ministry’s press release said it is “to closely monitor and coordinate the efforts of various stakeholders for the effective delivery of humanitarian assistance and in the pursuit of our engagement with the Afghan people. “.

Widely blamed for the hasty troop withdrawal that threw Afghanistan into chaos, the US evacuated about 1.2 lakh people from Afghanistan in two weeks in August 2021. That number included 74,000 Afghans according to details shared by MP Chellie Pingree.

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