By Raju Vernekar
Mumbai, Aug 18:
A delegation of the Afghan students studying in Maharashtra including Mumbai and Pune called on Maharashtra Protocol Minister Aditya Thackeray and sought his help in getting their visas extended.
Nearly 5000 Afghan students are studying in Maharashtra. The visa period of some students has come to an end. They want to get the visa extended. Thackeray assured them that he would try to solve the visa problems, by taking the issue to the Union Government.
The students told Thackeray that they have been unable to get in touch with their parents and relatives in Afghanistan. India is like a big brother to them. With the help of Pakistan, the Taliban have been able to enter Afghanistan. We oppose the Taliban. The situation in Afghanistan has become dire. Women are not safe there. Our families are in trouble there. As such they are scared. Thackeray assured them that he will try to get in touch with the Ministry of External Affairs to help them. Thackeray also assured them a safe stay in Maharashtra
“e-Emergency X-Misc Visa”
In another development, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs on Tuesday said that it is reviewing visa provisions given the current situation in Afghanistan. A new category of electronic visa called “e-Emergency X-Misc Visa” has been introduced to fast-track visa applications for entry into India. “MHA reviews visa provisions given the current situation in Afghanistan. As regards Afghan nationals, our visa services will continue through an e-Emergency visa facility, which has been extended to Afghan nationals. This can be accessed through our e-visa portal at https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/evisa/Registration. We have already received requests from Afghan Sikh and Hindu community leaders, and are in touch with them. MHA spokesperson said in a statement.
Indian Embassy staff returns
In the meanwhile nearly 150 Indian officials, including embassy staff, ITBP personnel, and four media persons, were brought back from the Kabul airport by an Indian Airforce aircraft- IAF C-17 Globemaster, on Tuesday.
The aircraft halted briefly at the Jamnagar Air Force Base (Gujarat) and then landed at the Hindon airbase in Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh. Those who reached Delhi included: 30 diplomats, including Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan Rudrendra Tandon, 99 commandos of ITBP with their 3 sniffer dogs, and 21 civilians. The Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), which landed at Hindon airbase, brought back all their weapons and belongings. They have been sent to the ITBP corona quarantine centre in Delhi, official sources said.
ITBP had deployed over 300 commandos in Afghanistan to provide security to the embassy and other places including the Delaram-Jaranj road project completed by the Border Roads Organization (BRO) between 2005-2008. Several ITBP commandos died earlier in various terrorist attacks and many of them were awarded gallantry medals by India.
Kabul airport was reopened for evacuation operations on Tuesday morning by the American agencies. The Indian officials were taken inside the secure American zone at the Kabul airport on Monday night from where they took off on Tuesday morning. The aircraft that took off from Kabul airport was provided security by the American Forces on the ground controlling the airport operations.
“Given the prevailing situation in Kabul, it was decided that our Embassy personnel would be immediately moved to India. This movement has been completed in two phases and the Ambassador and all other India-based personnel have reached New Delhi”, the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement on Tuesday.
“ We have been issuing periodic travel and security advisories for all Indian nationals in Afghanistan, given the deteriorating security situation there. Those already in Afghanistan were urged to return immediately while others were advised not to travel there. Nevertheless, we understand that several Indians are stranded in that country, some of whom are employed by third-country organizations. Our immediate priority is to obtain accurate information about all Indian nationals currently in Afghanistan. They and their employers are requested to urgently share the relevant details with MEA’s Special Afghanistan Cell”, the statement added.