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Unrest in Afghanistan to cause Rs 2 bn hit to India's medical tourism

For the Afghans, India is a cheap healthcare destination where hospitals offer quality treatment at reasonable rates

Tuesday August 17, 2021 10:25 PM, Avinash Prabhakar, IANS

Medical Tourism

New Delhi: The ongoing political unrest in Afghanistan may have huge economical impact on India's medical tourism.

India offers quality medical facilities at a cheaper rate as compared to the US and other developed nations, for which scores of patients, including from Afghanistan, visit the country regularly.

"Afghan patients and their friends and family members contribute around Rs 1.5-2 billion to the Indian economy," said Sanjay Agrawal, President, PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

For the Afghans, India is a cheap healthcare destination where hospitals offer quality treatment at reasonable rates.

Out of the total medical tourists, around 54.3 per cent visited India from Bangladesh last year, followed by 9 per cent from Iraq, 8 per cent from Afghanistan, 6 per cent from Maldives and 4.5 per cent from African nations.

"Medical Visa"

"Around 30,000 medical visas are issued every year for Afghan nationals. We roughly estimate that around Rs 1.5-2 billion is at stake due to the political unrest in Afghanistan," Agrawal said.

The government has introduced medical visas along with e-medical visas for 166 nations as part of its policy. Yoga and ayurveda tourism are also being promoted as an alternative form treatment.

"Indian investment in Afghanistan"

While India had invested nearly $3 billion in aid to rebuild Afghanistan, the present political instability in the war-torn nation would have an adverse impact on all the welfare programmes.

According to the spokesperson of Max Healthcare:

"There is already a dip in the footfall of patients arriving from overseas owing to the restrictions on commercial flight movement for the past 18 months. We anticipate a further decline in the number of patients arriving from Afghanistan.

"The Indian Embassy there is currently not functioning and the uncertainty over scheduled commercial flights will lead to delay in patient arrivals," said the spokesperson of private hospital in Delhi where many Afghan nationals come for treatment.

"However, once the situation stabalises, we are hopeful that patients will be able to travel for medical assistance to India," he added.

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