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Sushma assures medical visa to Pakistani child

Even as Pakistan had accused India of “politicising” humanitarian issues, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday assured a medical visa to a five-year-old Pakistani child seeking urgent open heart surgery.

“I am sorry, the child is suffering so much. We will issue the visa immediately,” Sushma Swaraj tweeted after a request by a doctor in an Indian private hospital stating that five-year-old Nabeeha Rashid needed the open heart surgery, was posted on the social media platform.

In response to a separate request, Sushma Swaraj said that the Indian High Commission in Islamabad would look at the visa applications of Shamim Ahmed, seeking a liver transplant, and his two attendants Amna Shamim and Wajiha Ali.

On Monday night, the External Affairs Minister assured visas to Sakina Younus, Mubarak Ali, Tariq Hussain, Fariha Usman and Muhammad Asim Bhatti, all seeking to undergo liver transplants in India.

Maria Danish, Hamna Danish and Sara Danish were also assured medical visas for undergoing bone marrow transplants in India.

Last week, Pakistan accused India of “politicising” humanitarian issues and said “selective issuance” of medical visas to its citizens was not a gesture of compassion but “cold blooded politicking”.

Foreign Office spokesperson Mohammad Faisal said the Indian policy of selective issuance of medical visa to Pakistanis was “regrettable”.

On November 25, another Pakistani national, Shahzaib Iqbal from Lahore, tweeted to Sushma Swaraj that “after Allah, you are our last hope” seeking a medical visa. The Minister did not disappoint him and assured him a visa.

On Independence Day, the Ministry of External Affairs had announced that India would provide medical visas to all bonafide Pakistani patients.

As ties between the two countries soured over various issues, the ministry had announced in May that only a letter of recommendation by then Pakistan Prime Minister’s Foreign Affairs Advisor Sartaj Aziz would enable a Pakistani national to get a medical visa for India.

The action was termed “highly regrettable” by Islamabad, which said that asking for such a letter violated diplomatic norms and such a requirement had not been prescribed for any other country.

However, a patient from Pakistan-administered Kashmir, seeking treatment in New Delhi for liver tumour, was given a visa on July 18.

Sushma Swaraj then said that he needed no recommendation from the Pakistani government for a medical visa because the territory “is an integral part of India”.

Since August 15, however, Pakistani nationals seeking medical treatment have not been denied visas.