Last year, none of the eight Pakistani students selected for SAU could get a visa to come to India.
New Delhi: Thanks to the chill in diplomatic relations between India and Pakistan, the only significant representation of Pakistani students in India — at the South Asian University (SAU) — has fallen to an all-time low.
SAU is an international university established in 2010 by the member nations of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) — Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. It operates out of Delhi’s diplomatic quarter, Chanakyapuri.
Its mandate is to enhance learning among the South Asian community, and the falling representation of Pakistan goes against it.
Currently, there are five Pakistani master’s students at SAU and two pursuing PhDs, against a quota of 21 students from the country at the postgraduate level.
A growing trend
Last year, none of the eight Pakistani students selected for SAU could get a visa to come to India, following which the number of applications has gone down this year.
“We would just call it sad, because such a thing never happened before. We never faced any issues with visas for our students. Since it was something which was beyond the control of the university, we could not admit those students,” said the official spokesperson for SAU.
According to SAU officials, annually, the university would get about 100-150 applications from Pakistan, which dropped to 80 last year. This year, for academic year 2018-19, only 50 applications have been received.
“The number of students coming from Pakistan to SAU has been on the decline, because students do not feel safe coming to India, given the unpredictable diplomatic environment between the countries,” a Pakistani diplomatic source told ThePrint.
“In fact, forget students, SAU does not even have enough representation of staff and faculty members from Pakistan,” the source added.
The finance factor
The difficult ties between India and Pakistan have hurt SAU financiallytoo. All SAARC countries contribute funds for SAU, but Pakistan has given only $2.26 million of the $7.85 million it was supposed to since the university became functional, according to figures shared by India’s external affairs ministry officials in a budget presentation.
Sources in the ministry of external affairs told ThePrint that they followed due procedure in granting visas to Pakistan nationals.
“There are Pakistani students and faculty at SAU despite the fact that Pakistan has not paid its due financial contribution for the last few years,” a source said. “Their faculty is getting their salary and students are receiving the best of education on account of the financial contributions being made by other SAARC member states,” the source added. “Pakistan has fallen short of fulfilling its obligations under the SAARC framework.”
The Pakistani High Commission said it was “actively working on the matter”. “Pakistan has already made part of its payment. We are currently working on the matter related to the remaining amount,” a spokesperson said.
Not a priority
Pakistani students also seem to be far down the priority list for the Indian government even in terms of its new ‘Study in India’ initiative. The programme targets students from south and west Asia, but does not list Pakistan as a target country.
“Since there are things that are beyond our control, we do not want to target (a place) where we will not be able to achieve results,” said a senior official in the ministry of human resource development, which is handling this new programme.