Amid Afghan crisis, Jaishankar to cut short U.S. visit

Amid Afghan crisis, Jaishankar to cut short U.S. visit

Human rights organisation says Afghan nationals seeking shelter in India should be granted the status of refugees

In view of developments in Afghanistan, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar is cutting short his visit to the Americas this week, and will return from the United Nations after chairing over two meetings at the UN Security Council. Mr. Jaishankar was due to travel to Mexico, Panama and Guyana after his visit to New York, but sources said these visits would now be “rescheduled” at a later date, evidently of the fast moving crisis in Afghanistan which has triggered an exodus to neighbouring countries and beyond.

Mr. Jaishankar is due to return to Delhi on Friday, to oversee logistical and diplomatic meetings over the rapid turn of events in Afghanistan, and India’s stand on the new Taliban regime in power in Kabul. In particular, the government’s decision after Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a Cabinet Committee on Security, to accept visa requests from all Afghan nationals, including Hindus and Sikhs who want to leave Afghanistan in view of the Taliban takeover.

However, a human rights organisation in Delhi has said providing visas to Afghan nationals seeking shelter in India will not serve a humanitarian purpose and they should be granted the status of refugees. The Rights and Risk Analysis Group (RRAG) has urged the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to defend the human rights of the Afghans who are fleeing to India, by granting them the status of refugees.

‘Highly inadequate’

Director of RRAG Suhas Chakma has said the grant of ‘e-Emergency X-Misc Visa’ is “highly inadequate” to deal with the immediate concerns of the fleeing Afghans. “Visa comes with an expiry date which can be denied at any time. Visa by definition also excludes extension of any humanitarian assistance by the government and any possibility to work or engage in activities necessary for survival. The grant of emergency visa, therefore, does not take into account the needs of the Afghans who fled to India,” said Mr. Chakma.

Over the last few days, a large number of Afghans have arrived in India through commercial and special flights operated by India as the regime change got under way in Kabul. Among those who arrived are Wahidullah Kaleemzai, MP from Wardak, Abdul Aziz Hakimi, MP from Parwan, MP Abdul Qadir Zazai, Senator Malem Lala Gul, Jamil Karzai, former MP and second cousin to former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Shukria Esakhail, MP from Baghlan, and several other notables including government officials and security personnel.

The RRAG argues that under the Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, the Afghan guests have the protection of their right to life and liberty which will require basic support such as medical and health facilities, education for family members and opportunity to work in activities for survival. The RRAG has urged the NHRC to set up a division within the NHRC to process the refugee claims of the Afghan guests who had to flee to India following the takeover of political power by the Taliban. Mr. Chakma cited that the Government of India had already extended similar humanitarian assistance to Tibetan and Sri Lankan refugees and said, “Therefore, there is no reason as to why India must not formulate a policy on the Afghan refugees.”

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