All Afghan nationals can now travel to India only on an e-visa, the Ministry of Home Affairs announced this afternoon, spotlighting the security situation in the war-ravaged country since the return of the Taliban.
The decision comes days after the government introduced a new category of visa called "e-Emergency X-Misc visa" for the Afghan nationals. These visas will initially be valid for six months, the officials said.
"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," the Ministry said in a statement.
In view of some reports that certain passports of Afghan nationals have been misplaced, the Home Ministry announced that previously issued visas to all Afghan nationals, who are presently not in India, stand invalidated with immediate effect.
As Indian missions in Afghanistan are shut, the applications will be examined and processed in New Delhi, reported news agency PTI quoting officials.
A total of 626 people, including 228 Indian citizens, have been evacuated from Afghanistan till now, informed Minister Hardeep Puri. He also informed that 77 among them were Afghan Sikhs. The number of Indian citizens evacuated does not include those working in the Indian Embassy, Mr Puri added.
India had earlier announced that it would "facilitate repatriation to India of those who wish to leave Afghanistan" and said Hindus and Sikhs from the country will be given priority.
The Taliban swept across Afghanistan this month, seizing control of almost all key towns and cities in the backdrop of withdrawal of the US forces that began on May 1.
On August 15, the capital city Kabul also fell to the Taliban, even as a large number of Afghans attempted in vain to flee the nation.
The Taliban forces have sought to portray a moderate face than when they first came to power in the late 1990s. But many Afghans remain sceptical of this and fear the return of the "regressive" regime.
(With PTI inputs)