According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, there were approximately 40,000 refugees and asylum-seekers registered in India in 2019. At 27 percent, Afghans were the second-largest community amongst them.
Most of the Afghan refugees living in India are concentrated in New Delhi. The capital’s Lajpat Nagar, a colony originally built for partition refugees from Pakistan, acts as a home for many Afghans. Those living here seem to have integrated themselves into the local customs and traditions, part of India’s rich and syncretic cultural heritage.
With the Taliban taking over Afghanistan, however, the “Afghan colony” in Lajpat Nagar and Bhogal that has many shops, travel agencies and restaurants catering mostly to Afghan students, medical tourists and refugees are in the grip of fear with people making desperate enquiries about each other’s families back home.
Currently, there are over 16,000 Afghan students pursuing higher education in India, and during the last two decades, over 60,000 graduates, post-graduates and other professionals have returned to Afghanistan after completing their training in the country.
The people-to-people relationship between Afghanistan and India is centuries old. This makes India a unique place for vulnerable Afghans who managed to escape from the misery of the war that has gripped their homeland. The compassion and understanding they find prevailing in Indian neighbourhoods are difficult to match when compared to other countries.
They have also witnessed the development brought up by the humanitarian assistance provided by India for the reconstruction of their homeland in all provinces, cutting across ethnic lines. As per official estimates, the total Indian assistance to Afghanistan is estimated at $3 billion during the last twenty years.
Going beyond the economy and by extending the hand of friendship, India has always been a partner to Afghanistan. Naturally, the country offers solace for the vulnerable people escaping from the persecution of the Taliban. It has done so in the past and is committed to doing so in these turbulent times too.
Source: The Statesman