India on Friday said that Afghan citizens being evacuated and brought to India from Afghanistan can arrive in the country only on a six-month visa and that the government will “take it from there.” “That’s the current plan for six months. This is an evolving situation. Making long-term plans has not been the best of ideas,” Union ministry of home affairs (MEA) spokesperson Arindam Bagchi told news agency ANI.
This comes in the aftermath of India announcing that all Afghan nationals must arrive in the country only on the emergency e-visas, which was announced by the home ministry on August 17 in view of the Taliban taking over Afghanistan after two decades.
Bagchi further told reporters during a weekly press briefing that more than 550 people have so far been flown out of Afghanistan by India on six independent flights – either from Kabul or Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe. “Of these, over 260 were Indians. The government also facilitated the evacuation of Indian nationals through other agencies. We were in touch with various countries like [the] US and Tajikistan,” he added.
Referring to the deportation of an Afghan woman MP Rangina Kargar, who claimed she was treated “as a criminal” in India, Baghchi cited “confusion over the e-Emergency visa system” to be the reason behind the incident and termed it as “unfortunate.”
Also Read | Afghan woman MP complains she was ‘treated like criminal’, deported from India: Reports
“There were reports of a group of people who raided one of our outsourcing agencies where Afghan passports with Indian visas were there,” he told reporters.
A senior official on Thursday said that over 1,000 visas issued by the Indian embassy were reportedly stolen in Afghanistan due to which more than 11,000 visas given to Afghans between August 12 and 14, were cancelled. According to a separate ANI report, India has issued around 300 e-visas to Afghans so far.
The official also said that intelligence agencies had anticipated the stolen visas could be misused amid the situation in Afghanistan.
Also Read | Over 1,000 visas issued by Indian embassy were stolen in Afghanistan: Report
Bagchi also said that India was able to evacuate “some Afghan nationals as well as [those] from other countries,” and that several of them were Sikhs and Hindus. “Primarily, our focus will be on Indian nationals, but we’ll also stand by Afghans who stood by us,” he was quoted as saying.
Throwing light on the overall evacuation process, the home ministry spokesperson said that the “vast majority of Indians” who wish to return have been flown out of Afghanistan. “I don’t have the exact number for that,” Bagchi added.
The evacuation deadline for foreign nationals and Afghans are only a few days away after the US President recently reinstated his move to stick to August 31, even as allied forces pushed him for an extension. His reaffirmation had come soon after the Taliban gave an ultimatum that an extension would invite “consequences.”
Meanwhile, explosions at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport on Thursday, which was claimed by the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISIS-K), reportedly caused the death of at least 90 Afghans and 13 US Marines.