Once hopeful, many Afghan students, who had enrolled themselves in Indian universities mainly through the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) have now relinquished their hopes of coming back to India and continuing their academics.
According to the Afghanistan Embassy, more than 13,000 Afghan students are studying in universities across India with many of them still stranded in the war-torn country since the Taliban captured Kabul and significant cities leading to severe cracks in India’s diplomatic relations with its neighbour.
Despite online classes and exams, the lack of internet facilities has forced many of these students to appeal to the Modi government for relief in visas, something that the latter has reserved for the minority Sikh and Hindu population from Afghanistan through its emergency e-visa scheme.
Afghan students eye Europe, Iran, Turkey
With their requests not being catered to, many Afghan students have now decided to ditch their dreams to study in India and look at alternative options, which can help them escape Afghanistan and pursue their academic careers.
“I have made a plan to take the IELTS test and apply for a Master's degree program in Europe. Some of my friends have also pursued their degrees in countries such as Germany, the UK, Pakistan, Iran, and other places,” said Tanweer Sahak, a student from Savitribai Phule Pune University, who lamented the way India ‘treated Afghan students’, by not providing visas.
“I have no desire to visit India or pursue any further studies there. I think it's important for India to understand that while the situation in Afghanistan may improve in the future, we will never forget how they closed their doors to us,” Sahak added.
Iran, which has traditionally been a popular destination for thousands of Afghan migrants, is also being eyed by girl students in Afghanistan despite the recent protests over Mahsa Amini’s death creating an uneasy atmosphere in the country.
“I will be moving with my brother to Iran soon. He has already received his visa and I am waiting for mine,” said Mahnaz Hajizada, who was pursuing an MBA from the Ganga Institute of Technology and Management and lost her job at a private company in Afghanistan in August 2022 after the country imposed a ban on women working outside of their households.
Others are going to join their friends in Pakistan and Turkey amid uncertainty from their universities regarding admissions.
“Many of my friends are now in Pakistan and Turkey, and I will be joining them soon. Our universities have stopped responding to us which is why we have to take this step,” said Noor Ahmed, a student pursuing Bsc Computer Science from Sharda University.
‘Can’t go back,’ say students residing in India
650 Afghan students received stipend-paid scholarships from the ICCR in 2021, while all Afghan candidates were turned down in 2022. This has required Afghan students to rely on their resources to complete their studies in India. Some of them who are already in the country dread going back once they are done with their courses.
“I want to work in India once I am done with my academics in May, I cannot go back to Afghanistan now,” said Marwa Jaan, a student pursuing MA in Political Science at Lovely Professional University.
According to Sushil Kansal, Dean, of International Relations, Panjab University, the answer to the issues being faced by Afghan students concerning the visa lies in the ICCR’s policies for the former.
“We can’t do anything about providing Afghan students offline classes unless and until ICCR intervenes since most of them enrolled in the universities through the body,” said Kansal.
Students have been protesting since 2021 against visas being prohibited for them to come to India |
MEA’s stand on student visas to Afghans
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had previously commented regarding the return of Afghan students to India at an event in Vadodara, during which he attributed the delay to logistical issues created by the shutdown of the Indian Embassy in Kabul in August 2021 when the Taliban government took over Afghanistan.
Responding to a query from an Afghan student in Gujarat, Jaishankar said that “a level of trust and efficiency” has to come out for the visas to be restarted.
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