In what could have turned into a massive security nightmare for New Delhi, CNN-News18 has learnt that several Afghan passports with Indian visas were stolen at a private travel agency in Kabul after it was raided by an armed group of Urdu speaking men backed by Pakistan ISI between August 15 and 16 soon, after the Taliban takeover in the city. The private travel agency works in coordination with the Indian embassy in Kabul for the facilitation of Indian visas for Afghan nationals.
“We are still trying to access how many passports have been stolen. The Ministry of External Affairs and security agencies are looking into it. All those Afghan passports had Indian visas on it and could be misused by terror groups”, sources familiar with the development revealed.
The development comes at a time when India has launched a massive evacuation mission with the Indian Air Force and Air India working closely with Indian diplomats and security agencies for a safe and secure rescue of Indian nationals and other threatened groups in Kabul.
Over 800 individuals have been rescued already by multiple flights of Indian Air Force C-17 aircraft. Even as the evacuation mission of the US, along with several of its allies, continues from the Hamid Karzai International Airport, the security of Kabul has been taken over by Haqqani Network which has been a Pakistan proxy since long.
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India cancels all old Afghan Visas
India’s Ministry of Home Affairs has, meanwhile, cancelled all old Indian visas of Afghan nationals because of the security situation.
“Owing to the prevailing security situation in Afghanistan and streamlining of the visa process by introduction of the e-Emergency X-Misc visa, it has been decided that all Afghan nationals henceforth must travel to India only on e-Visa,” Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said in a statement.
“Keeping in view some reports that certain passports of Afghan nationals have been misplaced, previously issued visas to all Afghan nationals, who are presently not in India, stand invalidated with immediate effect. Afghan nationals wishing to travel to India may apply for e-Visa at www.indianvisaonline.gov.in,” the statement further said.
India had started accepting e-visa applications for Afghan nationals after the Indian embassy in Kabul was shut owing to security challenges. Several Afghan nationals who have worked with erstwhile Afghan government and security agencies have sought India’s help for asylum amidst Taliban takeover in Afghanistan. Sources indicate that the Indian government has already received more than 15,000 e-visa requests from Afghan nationals.
Aditya Raj Kaul is Contributing Editor, News18 group with more than a decade long experience in covering Conflict, Foreign Policy, and Internal Security. He can be reached at Aditya.Kaul@nw18.com