The Indian government said on Tuesday it would prioritize the repatriation of Hindus and Sikhs from Afghanistan – a move that drew comparisons to a controversial 2019 citizenship law, enacted under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which discriminates against Muslims.
The country’s interior ministry said it would introduce “emergency visa”To allow Afghans to stay in India for six months. He did not say whether Muslims, who constitute the majority of those seeking to leave Afghanistan as the Taliban take power, would also be considered.
“We are in constant contact with the leaders of the Sikh and Hindu communities in Kabul,” said S. Jaishankar, Indian Minister of Foreign Affairs, said on twitter. “Their well-being will receive our priority attention. “
This distinction has aroused condemnation from some corners.
“Shameful that the response of the Indian government is now to view the desperate Afghan refugees not as humans fleeing persecution and certain death, but in terms of whether or not they belong to the Muslim religion,” said Kavita Krishnan, an opposition politician. said on twitter.
India also drew criticism after many seats were left empty on an Air Force flight on Tuesday that evacuated Indian citizens and officials from the country’s embassy in Kabul.
Officials in New Delhi have said the country will “support” Afghans who have worked closely with the Indian government and its mission in Afghanistan. It is not clear whether their religious status would be a factor in this process.
A spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
India has previously granted longer visas to Afghans fleeing persecution, regardless of their religion. Many Afghans emigrated to India when the Taliban took power about two decades ago. Some have settled in New Delhi, where a shopping district popularly called “Little Kabul” comes alive every evening with stalls selling traditional food.
U.S. and Afghan officials say India’s big rival Pakistan has allowed Taliban leaders to move freely, and the country continues to serve as a safe haven where fighters and their families can receive medical care.
But experts say India is managing its relations with the new Afghan rulers cautiously. Indian diplomats recently made efforts to engage with the Taliban as part of the US-led talks in Doha, Qatar.
Some in India have urged their government to engage directly with the Taliban. Vivek Katju, a former Indian ambassador to Afghanistan, told The Wire last week that the country had become a “spectator” in Afghanistan and that Indian leaders did not know “where to turn”.
“Relations with the Taliban should take place,” Katju said in a telephone interview with The New York Times on Tuesday. “The mechanics of engagement must be such that it must be open and direct.”
Pakistani leaders, for their part, have not welcomed the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan.
“When you embrace someone’s culture, you believe it is superior and you end up becoming its slave,” Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Monday in a veiled reference to the United States and Western culture. “In Afghanistan, they have broken the chains of slavery,” Khan said during an appearance in Islamabad, “but the slavery of the spirit does not break.”