New Delhi, Feb 14: The government recently gave its nod to the proposal for granting long-term visa (LTV) to minorities from Afghanistan seeking refuge in India. The Ministry of Home Affairs also relaxed norms for visa and residential permits for Afghan minorities which include Sikhs and non-Muslims who have been subjected to religious persecution.

More than 6,000 Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan want to return to India. After coming to power in 2014, the Modi government relaxed visa rules for minorities from Pakistan, who fled the country owing to religious persecution. It also included non-Muslims from Bangladesh in the scheme in 2015. However, there was no clear policy for minorities from Afghanistan.

Now, the government decided to grant LTV to minorities from Afghanistan and is believed to have further liberalised the visa policy for all Afghan nationals, reported Indian Express. The development assumes significance as it came at a time when Pakistan is imposing visa restrictions on Afghan nationals. Besides, the government raised the validity of a tourist visa to one year with a continuous stay of 90 days during each visit, as against 30 days earlier.

“The decision on LTV was taken after government received numerous representations regarding restrictions faced by minorities from Afghanistan, seeking refuge in India. The government could have overcome these hurdles if the amendment in citizenship Act, which has been before Parliament since 2016, was cleared. It would have helped minorities from neighbouring countries stay here without any legal document,” an official said was quoted as saying.