Afghan students feel abandoned as India restricts visas | News


New Delhi, India – For 2 years, Afghan scholar Yasmeen Azimi has been making an attempt to get a visa to renew her research in India. However the 22-year-old from Kabul says her visa utility has been rejected thrice.

Azimi was admitted to a postgraduate programme to review political science at Chandigarh College in northern Punjab state in January 2021 beneath a scholarship supplied by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), an autonomous physique beneath the international ministry.

However her plans to pursue her training in India had been dashed after India’s Ministry of Exterior Affairs (MEA) cancelled all current Afghan visas, together with scholar visas, following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021.

As her visa course of dragged on, Azimi finally joined her course on-line, however eight months after beginning, her outcomes are nonetheless pending, regardless of making repeated requests to school authorities.

“There isn’t any constructive response. We can’t proceed our research this manner,” mentioned Azimi, who additionally confronted difficulties in attending on-line lessons because the web was regularly uneven.

Her issues started on August 25, 2021, when India’s Ministry of House Affairs (MHA) launched an announcement asserting: “Holding in view some stories that sure passports of Afghan nationals have been misplaced, beforehand issued visas to all Afghan nationals, who’re presently not in India, stand invalidated with speedy impact.”

The Indian authorities additionally closed down its Kabul embassy as diplomatic ties had been damaged following the Taliban seize of the Afghan capital. Final August, New Delhi resumed restricted operations at its embassy however visa amenities are nonetheless unavailable.

Onib is a doing PhD in computer science
Onib Dadgar is a doing PhD in pc science [Photo courtesy Onib Dadgar]

E-visa programme

New Delhi as a substitute directed Afghan nationals to use beneath an e-visa programme – however that is solely legitimate for six months and granted in uncommon circumstances.

Final yr, e-visas got to solely 300 Afghans, which implies Azimi and hundreds of different Afghans, who go to India for learning or medical therapy, have been made to attend.

E-visas are straightforward to use for and require fundamental paperwork corresponding to enterprise playing cards, ID and invitation letters from an establishment in India.

However greater than 2,500 Afghan college students enrolled in Indian universities and faculties are caught in Afghanistan attributable to not being issued visas, based on the Afghan embassy in New Delhi.

India’s ICCR, based in 1950 to advertise cultural exchanges, beforehand supplied 1,000 annual scholarships to Afghan nationals who wished to pursue undergraduate and postgraduate research in India, in a bid to forge nearer relations with the Western-backed authorities that took over Kabul after the 2001 toppling of the Taliban.

Hundreds of Afghans benefitted from the scholarship scheme, which supplied as much as 25,000 Indian rupees ($302) as a stipend and about 6,500 rupees ($73) as home hire per 30 days to every scholar. Greater than 10,000 Afghan college students are presently learning in varied universities throughout India.

Azimi had hoped that her training would assist her discover a job and enhance her household’s monetary state of affairs again in Afghanistan amid an unprecedented humanitarian disaster, with greater than 90 p.c of individuals residing under the poverty line.

Her father, a driver by career, wished her to go to India for a greater future.

“My household was very a lot at peace that I might discover some alternative exterior India after my diploma once I might be educated,” she advised Al Jazeera.

Azimi has nonetheless not obtained any outcomes from Chandigarh College, regardless of repeated requests.

An official from the worldwide scholar wing of Chandigarh College advised her they had been making an attempt to resolve the difficulty with authorities. A college official advised Al Jazeera they had been additionally engaged on this situation.

‘No alternative however to depart her course’

One other Afghan scholar, Meena Nizami, pissed off by the denial of a visa and the dearth of response from Indian establishments, advised Al Jazeera she now not needs to return to the nation the place she had lived for the reason that age of 12.

Nizami, 22, who pursued a grasp’s in psychology on the College of Delhi, was compelled to return to Afghanistan following the coronavirus outbreak in December 2020. She took on-line lessons and hoped to finally return to the college – however this has not occurred.

Nizami paid about 60,000 rupees ($811) in course charges for the primary yr, however college employees mentioned that they’d be unable to do something because it was a matter of “nationwide safety”.

“That is irritating and surprising. We didn’t count on this from India a minimum of. No scholar ought to undergo by way of accessing training,” Nizami mentioned.

“It’s unlucky {that a} political shift has led India to deal with us so badly. They need to have supported girls’s training a minimum of and allow them to enter the nation.”

After ready for a yr, Nizami had no alternative however to depart her course – and has now been admitted to Westford College School within the United Arab Emirates.

Like her, many different Afghan college students have began making use of to universities elsewhere, together with in Europe, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan.

In 2022, Pakistan introduced 4,500 scholarships for Afghan college students and greater than 7,000 Afghans are presently enrolled in varied graduate and postgraduate programmes in Pakistan, based on the Pakistan authorities.

Shifa Noor*, 26, from Kabul, was pursuing a grasp’s in enterprise administration (MBA) from an Indian college whereas her husband, Haider, was a PhD scholar. Each of them are actually caught in Afghanistan because of the visa situation. They requested anonymity for this story.

Noor says training was her solely means to realize a greater future. She says learning in Afghanistan for ladies is now nearly unattainable as the Taliban has banned women from faculties and universities, and imposed curbs on their employment.

Noor’s household has no earnings as Afghanistan’s financial system has floor to a halt amid worldwide sanctions. Her father, a former authorities worker, misplaced his job following the autumn of the Western-backed authorities.

“I wished to finish my diploma as quickly as potential however now I’m considering of leaving the course and becoming a member of another college exterior India,” Noor mentioned.

Onib Dadgar, a PhD scholar in Pc Science on the outstanding Jawaharlal Nehru College primarily based in New Delhi, has turn out to be an advocate for Afghan college students.

The 30-year-old, who’s presently residing in Nangarhar province, reached out to India’s Ministry of House Affairs however mentioned the ministry didn’t reply. He has additionally run campaigns on social media like Twitter.

Dadgar mentioned Gujarat Technical College (GTU) final yr cancelled the admission of 24 Afghan engineering college students citing visa points.

A GTU official primarily based in Ahmedabad justified the cancellation, saying the college was following norms set by the ICCR, which had supplied them scholarships.

“Chances are you’ll please contact ICCR, GTU follows the norms of ICCR. If ICCR raises any query we are going to resolve it,” Khushboo Chauhan, administrative assistant for international college students at GTU, advised Al Jazeera through electronic mail.

Al Jazeera contacted different ICCR officers, together with Nalini Singhal, scholarship coverage and admissions programme director, however obtained no response. One other ICCR official refused to offer any data concerning the cancellation of admissions.

In the meantime, the training of a whole bunch of Afghan college students has been interrupted.

“We thought India was our second residence but it surely left us alone,” Dadgar advised Al Jazeera from Nangarhar by telephone.

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