Amid a raging humanitarian crisis in war-ravaged Afghanistan, the Indian government is on its toes to ensure the safe evacuation of its nationals as well as those seeking refuge in India.
While an Indian Air Force C-17 aircraft on Tuesday morning evacuated over 120 Indian mission members including the Indian ambassador in Kabul and other stranded diplomats at the Indian embassy, the Centre has also announced a new category of electronic visa to expedite applications of Afghans who want to leave their homeland. The new visa category is called “e-Emergency X-Misc Visa”.
“In view of the prevailing circumstances, it has been decided that our ambassador in Kabul and his Indian staff will move to India immediately,” MEA spokesperson Aarindam Bagchi tweeted on Tuesday.
According to the new policy, all Afghans can apply, without any religion-based priority. Applications will be scrutinised and processed in New Delhi. The visa is valid for six months.
“MHA reviews visa provisions in view of the current situation in Afghanistan. A new category of electronic visa called e-Emergency X-Misc Visa introduced to fast-track visa applications for entry into India,” the Union Home Ministry spokesperson said.
While two IAF aircraft flew down to Kabul to evacuate stranded diplomats and embassy personnel including the Indo-Tibetan Border Police on August 15, not all could be evacuated.
According to NDTV, the Taliban was watching the Indian embassy and the high-security Green Zone was also breached.
The first group of 45 Indian personnel who reached India on Monday in an IAF plane were initially intercepted by Taliban guards on their way to the airport and the personal belongings of a few of them were snatched away.
The rest of the Indian embassy members were unable to fly out as the road to the airport was closed and the runway itself had scores of Afghans jostling to board any aircraft that could take them away from the war-torn country.
NDTV said the remaining 120 plus diplomats and personnel boarded the flight on Tuesday after the route to the airport was cordoned off following a conversation between India’s External Affairs minister S Jaishankar and US secretary Antony Blinken.
On Monday, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) announced that the government has set up an Afghanistan Cell to coordinate repatriation and related matters.
The announcement by Bagchi on setting up of the cell came hours after he said that India will facilitate the repatriation of Sikhs and Hindus who wish to leave the war-torn country.
“#MEA has set up a Special Afghanistan Cell to coordinate repatriation and other requests from Afghanistan,” Bagchi said on Twitter.
He also put out the contact details to reach out to the Cell – Phone number: +919717785379, Email: MEAHelpdeskIndia@gmail.com.
“We are in constant touch with the representatives of Afghan Sikh and Hindu communities. We will facilitate repatriation to India of those who wish to leave Afghanistan,” the MEA spokesperson said earlier in the day.
“There are also a number of Afghans who have been our partners in the promotion of our mutual developmental, educational and people to people endeavours. We will stand by them,” he said.