INDIA which has invested billions of dollars in Afghanistan, signed a wide-ranging strategic agreement with that country on October 5, 2011 which also includes to help train Afghan security forces, while assisting Kabul in diversified projects has been playing double game with the war-torn country. Overtly, New Delhi has been claiming friendship with Afghanistan, covertly, it is strengthening Indian grip by creating unending lawlessness in that country which has become the most suitable place for Indian secret agency RAW to implement the conspiracy to fulfill its country’s strategic designs against Iran, China and particularly Pakistan.
As part of India’s dual strategy, RAW has well-established its network in Afghanistan, is in connivance with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Daesh and is using the militants of these terrorist outfits to destabilize Tibetan regions of China, Iranian Sistan-Balochistan and especially Pakistan’s Province of Balochistan by planning and patronizing the subversive activities, promoting acrimonious sense of dissent, political volatility, sectarian violence and arousing sentiments of separatism. In this context, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is their special target.
Now, as part of Indian double game, in the early May, this year, India has tightens visa rules for the Afghan nationals. Regarding India’s imposition of new visa restrictions on Afghan citizens, Indian media reported, “Visa applicants are now required to submit their personal bank account statements demonstrating financial ability to pay all costs of the trip. Minor applicants (aged 15 or below) and dependents who do not have individual bank accounts can submit bank statements of their parents/spouses/children. For those who travel to India for medical reasons, it is now mandatory to get a letter from a local Afghan doctor clearly stating that treatment for the particular illness or disease is not available in Afghanistan.”
The media elaborated, “Such restrictions are seen as more of a hurdle for people whose country is at war with Taliban and where local people face daily threat to survival. Unlike India, large parts of Afghanistan have little or no rule of government and more often than not, local people have to run away from their homes to protect themselves from Taliban.” It further said, “Given the grim ground reality, Afghans look to India for medical treatment or to pursue university education. Hundreds of them travel to hospitals in Delhi and surrounding areas for treatment with little or no medical intervention back home.”
While quoting the statement of Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, Indian media pointed out, “India has tightened visa controls for Afghan nationals because of concerns over Afghan passports being found in the possession of citizens of countries neighbouring Afghanistan…he made the remarks after the Meshrano Jirga, or upper House of Parliament, summoned to explain visa restrictions imposed by India for Afghan nationals… Rabbani did not name the countries whose citizens had obtained Afghan passports. However, Afghan media reports quoted senators as saying that the move was linked to Indian concerns about Pakistan…the Minister for Foreign Affairs was directly hinting at Pakistan…Asef Sediqi, a Senator, was quoted as saying by Tolo News…the senators said they believed India had taken the step to prevent the entry of militants…regional countries are concerned that suspected militants of Daesh, Taliban and other terrorist groups might enter into their countries from Afghanistan… Rabbani said India is concerned over the easy access to Afghan passports by nationals of neighbouring countries and has urged (the Afghan) government to resolve the issue”.
Nevertheless, Indian double game with Afghanistan has also been exposed by the Indian media which also said, “On 4 June, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will travel to Afghanistan’s Herat province to dedicate the India-built Salma Dam to water-starved and electricity-deprived people of the region. This trip will come days after Modi signed the agreement in Tehran that commits India to develop the Chabahar port, a project that is viewed by the people of Afghanistan as one that will help reduce their dependence on Pakistan…the enormous goodwill for India among the people of Afghanistan, however, is threatened by bureaucratic hurdles created in the recent weeks with new visa restrictions imposed by New Delhi.”
It is notable that on June 30, 2014, India had announced liberal visa policy for Afghan nationals—exemption of senior Afghan citizens and children from police reporting, allowing the Afghan nationals to stay in India on stay visa/resident permit up to two years at a time, and upgradation of the amenities at the Foreigner Regional Registration Office (FRRO) for the Afghan nationals. While doubting the integrity of the Afghan citizens, a system of biometric enrolment and photography was introduced to ensure that such facilities were not misused by unscrupulous elements, as stated by the Home Ministry of India. But these facilities have been taken back from the Afghan citizens in the new visa policy which has imposed restrictions.
It is mentionable that unlike India, Pakistan has provided the Afghans with several visa facilities, as per Pakistan policy, no Afghan citizen is denied visa and the same are served to them within 24-48 hours. Visa application fees are waived off for all Afghani Nationals upon submission of their Afghani Passport. In case, anyone is not able to provide Afghani passport, invitation letter on the letter head from the sponsor organization, stating details of purpose, duration and cities of visit is enough for obtaining visa. Family visa is issued to Afghan nationals having family relations in Pakistan. Adult (18 years and above) Afghan national can apply for family visa if his/her spouse has Pakistani nationality. Under 18 years old Afghan national can apply for family visa, if either of their parents have Pakistan nationality.
Undoubtedly, Indian new visa policy shows Indian maltreatment vis-à-vis Pakistan’s good behaviour with Afghanistan and Afghanistan’s friendly gestures with India vis-à-vis undue animosity with Pakistan. Reports of Afghan media suggest that the issue of Indian new visa rules for the Afghan citizens has been raised in Afghanistan’s Wolesi Jirga (House of People). Nonetheless, India has tightened visa rules for the Afghans as part of double game with Afghanistan.
—The writer is a Lahore-based freelance journalist.