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Modi govt gives breather to 80 Afghan cadets ‘stuck’ in India — a 1-yr English learning course

Cadets who graduated from military academies in India were earlier given a 6-month visa extension, but since they don't have permission to work here, they were left with no earnings.

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New Delhi: Eighty Afghan military cadets, who have finished their training at various military academies in India but continue to remain stuck owing to the political situation back home, have got a one-year breather from the Narendra Modi government in the form of an English language course that will enable them to stay on in the country.

Sources in the defence and security establishment told ThePrint that the course has been formulated keeping in mind the demand of the Afghan cadets, who did not want to go back to the Taliban-ruled country. There was a series of consultations between the defence and external affairs ministries over the matter, the sources said.

A press release issued by the Afghan Embassy in India Friday said 80 young Afghan cadets who recently graduated from various military academies have been offered a 12-month training programme in Effective English Communication for business and office purposes.

The course is being offered under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme of the External Affairs Ministry. The plan is for the young cadets to be placed in three institutes in India and be provided accommodation and a monthly allowance, said the release issued by the Afghan Embassy.

The Afghan embassy welcomed the decision and termed it as a “generous move”.

The government had earlier given the cadets a six-month visa extension after they had completed their course and had offered to send them to any country which was willing to accept them. However, the mere extension was a cause of worry, because the cadets were left without any monetary allowance. Since they did not have a work visa in India, it was illegal for them to work and earn a living.

Sources said the Afghan embassy had been in touch with both the defence and the external affairs ministries. Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhatt had, in September last year, said the government was aware of the matter and a policy would be formulated.

Also read: India cuts development aid to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan by 43%, big jump for Bangladesh: Budget

‘Fear being killed by Taliban’

The cadets, who will now undergo ITEC training, have been regularly protesting in front of the Afghanistan Embassy, as well as the US Embassy, in India, as most of them have sought asylum in the US.

Once their year-long training is completed, they have been assured that they will likely be given asylum in the US, diplomatic sources told ThePrint. But sources also said the Afghan Embassy is in talks with several other embassies, such as those of Canada, Germany and others, to absorb these cadets and other Afghans stuck in India, and grant them “refugee status” in their countries.

Meanwhile, the sources said the families of these cadets continue to live in Afghanistan.

According to diplomatic sources, the cadets fear that if they go back home tp Afghanistan, the Taliban will have them killed, as it has been doing with many former Afghan soldiers who worked for the Afghan National Defence Security Forces (ANDSF) as well as the National Directorate of Security (NDS).

Sources said when the Taliban took over last year, there were over 180 Afghan cadets undergoing training in India. While many of them left for other countries after their training, some wanted to stay back, and were seeking a recourse other than the six-month visa extension granted to all of them.

India’s engagement with Afghanistan

The Indian Military Academy (IMA) in Dehradun has been training foreign cadets, including Afghans, since 1948. Besides the IMA, training is also imparted to foreign cadets at other institutes, like the Officer Training Academy in Chennai and the National Defence Academy in Khadakwasla, Pune.

Afghan cadets who have passed out from Indian institutes over the years includes Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Taliban government.

India is engaged with the Taliban government in Kabul since it has made a commitment to extend humanitarian aid and assistance for the Afghan people. New Delhi has plans to send a large consignment of wheat and other essential goods to Afghanistan in the coming days, which will be sent via Pakistan, but using Afghan trucks.

“The government is committed to extending humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan. We have been sharing information about shipment of medicines and vaccines. The process to procure the wheat and to arrange its transportation is still underway,” Arindam Bagchi, spokesperson for the MEA, said Friday.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)

Also read: Taliban takes step forward by reopening girls schools. But don’t trust it to be inclusive yet


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