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New Delhi: The Taliban government has said that it will request India to grant visas to Afghan students enrolled in Indian educational institutions but who haven’t still been able to return to resume their courses after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.
This was announced by Taliban foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi in a meeting with Afghan students at the foreign ministry in Kabul on Monday, July 4, according to his deputy spokesperson, Hafiz Zia Ahmad.
In a series of tweets, Ahmad said that the students called on Muttaqi to assist them in “resuming their suspended classes and issuing visas and travelling to India”.
Foreign Minister Mawlawi Amir Khan Muttaqi received Afghan students to hear their problems. The students called on the foreign minister to assist them in resuming their suspended classes, & issuing visas & traveling to India.
It is noteworthy that due to the spread of the pic.twitter.com/nq7B27xiCC
— Hafiz Zia Ahmad (@HafizZiaAhmad1) July 4, 2022
The Taliban minister assured his audience that he would “task the relevant departments to raise the students’ demands with the Indian embassy and find a resolution to their problems”.
This is the first time the Taliban leadership has indicated that it would directly speak with Indian authorities to allow Afghan students to resume their studies in India.
The Indian embassy has recently re-opened but is only being manned by lower-ranked diplomats. This isbeing done ostensibly to coordinate the delivery of humanitarian assistance. India has still not accorded official diplomatic recognition to the Taliban government.
Before the fall of the Islamic Republic and the return of the Taliban last August, India had aggressively wooed Afghan students to Indian educational institutions with hundreds of scholarships every year. For the last decade, the Indian government has sponsored at least 1,000 annual scholarships for Afghans. Besides, many Afghan students also came to study in India with their own funds.
According to the Afghan embassy, more than 13,000 Afghan students are enrolled in Indian institutions. However, the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 resulted in many returning home as institutions closed down and moved exclusively to online teaching.
Even as the pandemic waned and universities opened, the military conquest by the Taliban of Afghanistan in August 2021 led to India withdrawing its diplomatic presence, and the issuance of visas to Afghans came down to a negligible trickle.
Eleven months later, there is not much hope left for students languishing at home, waiting to get back to their courses in India.
In response to the Taliban foreign ministry’s deputy spokesperson’s tweets, Afghan students tagged that they had been waiting for an Indian visa for months.
Before the fall of the Islamic Republic and the return of the Taliban last August, India had aggressively wooed Afghan students to Indian educational institutions with hundreds of scholarships every year.
Last month, Afghanistan’s ambassador to Sri Lanka had also highlighted the concerns of Afghan students who had not been able to resume their courses.
Stranded Afghan students under terrorists’ misrule in Afghanistan appeal to @PMOIndia @narendramodi ji to help expedite the processing of their visas so they can resume their education in #India. They believe education is the best weapon against extremism imposed on Afghanistan. https://t.co/wDFWwPyX5z
— Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari (@MAshrafHaidari) June 22, 2022