The Pakistani and Indian High Commissioners to Nigeria have disagreed over reports that the two Nigerian students that were arrested in India are on their way to join the terrorist group, Islamic State of Syria and Iraq.
While the Indian High Commissioner, Ajjampur Ghanashyam, insisted that the two youths from Kano, Imran Kabeer and Sani Jamiliu, were on their way to Pakistan to join ISIS, his Pakistani counterpart, Lt. Gen. Agha Farooq (retd.), described the report as false.
Farooq stated that India was being mischievous, noting that the students could not possibly breach the Indian/Pakistani borders which he said was fortified with armed soldiers, underground mines and electrified barbed wire.
He said the allegation against the two youths was an attempt to demonise them “just because they are Nigerian Muslims.”
Ghanashyam had told our correspondent in an interview last Thursday that his mission “now thinks twice before issuing student visas to Nigerians.”
According to him, the high commission is worried that radicalised Nigerian students in India may abandon their studies and travel out to join ISIS, adding that no fewer than 5,900 Nigerian students are schooling in India and about 30,000 Nigerians had graduated from various tertiary institutions in the country.
When asked if the high commission had changed its visa requirements since the arrest of the two Nigerians, Ghanashyam said it had not, adding however that the mission is more careful about visa issuance to applicants.
He stated that between 10 and 15 per cent applicants were given visas, noting that the mission would take drastic measures to ensure that Nigerian students returned home after completing their education.
Ghanashyam said, “Visa requirements have been on the web, everybody knows, but you see, you can’t locate the mind of a man to find out what his intentions are. If he has an admission letter from our school, and you have seen it with your own eyes, then you will give them visas, but now you have to think twice.
“You don’t know, but now we believe we are taken for a ride, but now you have to go back and tell them to look after these boys and girls and make sure they don’t go out here and there, to make sure they finish their course and board a plane to go back to Nigeria.
“The mission will be more careful. Usually, we give visas to about 10 to 15 per cent of applicants and this may further be reviewed.”
Giving an insight into the arrest of the two youths, the envoy said that they were issued visas because they tendered the necessary documents including letters of admission from an Indian institution.
He said, “These two boys from Kano said they wanted to study in Bangalore, we believed them and gave them student visas. They went to Bangalore last September. They spent one year, then they decided to go to ISIS, and they were trapped near the Pakistani border.
“I hope they are the exception and aberration, not the trend. I hope it would be the last of their kind. We have an association of close to 30,000 Nigerians who have graduated from India and we have 5,900 of students who are studying in India, it is quite worrying that if they go to India and from there, they go to ISIS, we would have a big issue on our hands.”
But the Pakistani ambassador dismissed the allegations against Kabeer and Jamiliu who were being detained by the police in Punjab, India.
Farooq, who displayed pictures of the Indian/Pakistani borders to our correspondent during an interview on Friday in Abuja, argued that it was practically impossible for the two students to join ISIS by going through Pakistan because they would have to pass through three countries to reach Syria, whereas they could easily enter Syria by air through Turkey or by sea.
He said, “From the pictures of the borders, you can see that there is no way the students could enter Pakistan from India because the border is well guarded with soldiers and other high-tech gadgets and it is controlled by India.
“The report that the Nigerian students were going to join ISIS is a hoax; how come it was reported by only Indian media? They just want to demonise the students because they are Nigerian Muslims.”