About 2,500 students in Afghanistan are still waiting for a move from Indian side to grant them visas to continue their education in the country. When the Taliban took over Afghanistan on August 15 last year, India suspended all visas. Since then, India has issued only about 300 visas, mostly for Afghan Sikhs and Hindus, minorities who have faced persecution.
India resumed its Afghan embassy activities 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 journalists in Delhi that “flexibility in the visa regime was needed”. He said the matter has been taken up with the Indian side but they are still waiting for an answer.
There are currently about 14,000 Afghan students in India studying at 73 universities and other institutions. They were all in India before Kabul fell to the Taliban when the US withdrew and the backed government collapsed.
Those who were due to travel last year found that their visas had been revoked amid the chaos in their country – at a time when Afghans were desperate to leave their country.
When Kabul fell
Indian embassy staff were evacuated on August 17 last year, two days after Kabul fell. A statement from the Indian side said: “As for Afghan nationals, our visa services will continue through an e-Emergency visa facility, which has been extended to Afghan nationals. It is accessible through our e-visa portal.”
Eight days later, a statement from the Interior Ministry said that “Visas previously issued to all Afghan nationals, who are not currently in India, will be invalidated with immediate effect”.
It 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 from now on all Afghan nationals must travel to India only with an e-Visa” .
Meanwhile, the Afghans who used to come to India for medical treatment are now on their way to Pakistan and Iran. Until last year, about 50,000 Afghans would visit India for medical treatment every year. There were 15 weekly flights, of which there are now two, which also have hardly any passengers.
In June this year, India resumed its embassy activities in Kabul when it deployed a technical team there. The press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was “to closely monitor and coordinate the efforts of various stakeholders for the effective delivery of humanitarian aid and to continue our engagement with the Afghan people.”
Largely responsible for the hasty withdrawal of troops that plunged Afghanistan into chaos, the US evacuated about 1.2 lakh people from Afghanistan within two weeks in August 2021. This number included 74,000 Afghans according to details shared by Congresswoman Chellie Pingree.