NEW DELHI: For the last five months, Noor Zahid Paiman has waited for a response to a visa renewal application so he can return to India and sit for final year exams for his computer science degree.
But his campus at the Sharda University in Noida so far remains out of reach.
Paiman is among at least 4,000 students from Afghanistan who arrive in India every year to pursue higher education. Last year, thousands of Afghan students travelled home during a devastating second wave of the coronavirus pandemic in India in which all educational institutes switched to online education. The lifting of virus restrictions in India coincided with the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban in mid-August, after which New Delhi suspended diplomatic ties with the country.
When the Indian embassy suspended its operations, it canceled the visas it had issued and asked holders to reapply online.
In recent weeks, hundreds of frustrated students have staged protests in front of Indian consulates across the country, including last week when they demonstrated in front of the Indian embassy building, demanding that their visas be renewed.
“Our future is at stake now since we have already missed one full semester due to lack of visa,” Paiman, a native of the eastern Khost province, told Arab News over the phone. "For five months I have been stranded here and my final year exam is already happening. I am really nervous about what's going to happen to my future.”
"I had a plan to become a teacher in university and work for our people, that was my plan."
Many students say they have not received a response to their visa renewal applications.
Jalal Ahmad Baryal, who hails from Afghanistan's Oruzgan province, said he was close to missing his final exams at the Gandhi Institute of Technology and Management in Bangalore.
"For 20 years, the Indian government was with us," he said. "But in this hour of grave crisis the Indian government is not helping us."
Last December, media reported that the Taliban government had reached out to New Delhi to request new visas for Afghan students so they could complete their degrees.
"On the specific issue of visa, I have to refer you to the home ministry," India's foreign ministry spokesperson, Arindam Bagchi, told Arab News. But officials at the home ministry could not be reached for comment and the Afghan embassy in New Delhi said it was also waiting for Indian authorities to respond.
"It's a difficult situation for us," Abdul Haq Azad, press secretary at the embassy, told Arab News. "We have been pursuing the matter with the Indian government for the last few months, but so far there has not been any response."