Mumbai: In May last year amid worsening relations with Pakistan, the External Affairs Ministry announced a new policy whereby it would grant Pakistani citizens seeking medical visas to get treated in India only if they have a recommending letter by Pakistan Foreign Minister Adviser Sartaj Aziz. A RTI query filed by Anil Galgali has however put question marks on whether Pakistan or even India is following this policy. Indian High Commission in Islamabad infomed that ‘the disclosure of this affection would prejudicially affect relations with a foreign state ie Pakistan. This information was being denied to Anil Galgali under Section 8 of the RTI act.
The External Affairs Ministry had in May last year announced the new rule after relations soured between the two countries after Pakistan announced that it had sentenced to death Kulbushan Jadhav, who it alleges it has caught for spying in Pakistan. On 15 November 2017, a Mumbai based RTI activist Anil Galgali had asked two questions from the External Affairs Ministry seeking details of how many Pakistani nationals have been given medical visa since May 10, 2017 to December 1,2017 and how many of these have got recommendations letters from Sartaj Aziz.
The second question pertained to whether the policy towards granting medical visas to Pakistani nationals has changed. In a RTI dated 8th December the Ministry of Home Affairs (Foreigners Division) to whom the query was forwarded by the External Affairs Ministry responded to him saying that while 380 Pakistani nationals were given medical visas for the above mentioned period. Responding to his second query it said that the Indian government had not changed its policy on granting of medical visas to Pakistani nationals.
It however stayed silent on how many of the 380 Pak nationals that got medial visas had recommendation letters from Aziz. “I wrote a letter to the External Affairs ministry saying that the queries that I had specifically asked were not addressed. In response I have got a letter from the High Indian High Commission in Islamabad in February that ‘the disclosure of this affection would prejudicially affect relations with a foreign state’ this information was being denied to me under Section 8 of the RTI act.”said Galgali.
Galgali added, “I have just asked how many of these Pakistani nationals had recommendation letters. How will it affect relations with Pakistan, when you yourself have announced such a new rule.. Why is the government unable to give the figures? Will disclosures of this information already worsen the situation between our two countries from what it is currently.”questioned Galgali. Anil Galgali claimed that he filed the RTI because he has got the information that while the Indian government announced the policy, the Pakistani government refused to give recommendation letters. “This is why they are not giving the information because it would be a embarrassment to the government,” said Galgali.