After the Iran connection was established in the Israel diplomat bombing incident, heightened scrutiny of visa applications of Iranian nationals has led to protests from the Islamic Republic.
With Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visiting Tehran for the Non-Aligned Movement summit on August 30-31, the first visit by an Indian PM in over a decade, there is a likelihood that this issue may feature in the bilateral talks.
After the bomb blast in February that targeted its diplomat, Israel had immediately pointed fingers at Iran for masterminding the plot, along with similar incidents in Georgia and Thailand.
An Indian journalist working for an Iranian news agency was arrested in connection with the incident. Further, it has sent lookout notices through Interpol for four Iranian nationals, three of whom had been in India on tourist visas.
A direct fallout has been the wariness in giving visas to Iranian nationals.
At a recent meeting of senior consular officers of Iran and India, Iran protested the delay in issuing visas to teachers for work at Iranian schools in India.
“At the meeting, Iranians raised the issue that we were not giving visas to Iranian teachers,” said a senior government official.
The Iranian Embassy and its consulates operate four schools for children of Iranian expatriates in Delhi, Mumbai, Pune and Hyderabad.
Visa woes have hit them hard, as they are manned by teachers from Iran coming to teach all subjects for periods varying from one to two years.
“Why do they need to get teachers from abroad. I am sure some subjects can be competently taught by Indian nationals,” said another government official.
At the meeting, Indian officials had also counter-argued that there were restrictions on Indian teachers teaching certain subjects, like Hindi and Math in Iran.
Besides, Iran has also complained that student visas were getting difficult to obtain.
India already has about 4000-6000 Iranian students at various institutions across the country.
Moreover, preachers also apply for travel to India to various Shia institutions on missionary visas.
However, officials said that the missionary visa applications would be scrutinised on case-to-case basis.
“We are certainly taking more time to check antecedents, but the rejection rate has been very low so far,” said another official.
While the visa policy is decided by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), it is implemented by the Ministry of External Affairs through its missions abroad.