No one Twitters like India's External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj. After establishing her social media supremacy on home turf several times over, Swaraj's fan following is now growing in neighbouring countries as well. Yesterday, an overwhelmed Pakistani woman was singing praises of the minister on Twitter, thanking her for her timely intervention to help a Pakistani man suffering from a serious liver ailment to come to India for treatment.
In a series of tweets, Karachi-based Hijaab Asif, recounted the troubles of getting a medical visa to bring the patient to India for a liver transplant. Asif claimed that the application for the visa had been submitted over two months ago, but no help was forthcoming. She also said that no doctor in Pakistan was willing to treat the man and he was under consultation with a Dr Soin from Medanta Hospital in Delhi.
— Hijaab asif (@Hijaab_asif) July 27, 2017
Swaraj promptly tweeted to India's High Commissioner in Pakistan, Gautam Bambawale, to help the woman procure a visa for the patient.
Soon enough, the Indian High Commission in Islamabad responded saying they were in touch with the patient and would follow up.
Even as the matter was on its way to being speedily resolved, Swaraj wondered why Pakistan's foreign affairs advisor, Sartaj Aziz, had not issued a letter of recommendation in a serious case like this.
Asif, touched by the swift action, expressed her gratitude by way of effusive tweets praising Swaraj, criticising Aziz, and expressing love for India and Indians. She even went so far as to say that Pakistan didn't deserve Swaraj, but the country would have changed if she was its prime minister.
According to an NDTV report, thousands of Pakistani citizens travel to India for medical treatment each year, with several hospitals reporting that they receive as many as 500 patients a month. While India is still issuing medical visas to Pakistanis, strained ties between the two countries have slowed down the process.
In May this year, India's external affairs ministry declared that medical visas would be issued to Pakistanis only after receiving a letter of recommendation from Sartaj Aziz. The decision was made on the backdrop of a Pakistani military court sentencing an Indian citizen, Kulbhushan Jadhav, to death on charges of espionage and terrorism.
To make matters worse, Swaraj's letter to Aziz, requesting a visa for Jadhav's mother, Avantika Jadhav, so she could visit her son, was ignored by the foreign ministry in Pakistan, earning them her ire on Twitter. On July 10, Swaraj scathingly commented on the lack of courtesy by her counterpart, reiterated the need for a recommendation letter from Aziz for Pakistanis seeking treatment in India.
Even so, tensions between the two countries have not stopped Ms Swaraj from helping Pakistanis in distress. A few days ago, a man reached out to her on Twitter asking for help to get a visa for his Pakistani wife, to which she responded with, "Indian daughters and daughters in law from Pakistan or any other country are always welcome."
Earlier this month, she waived the letter requirement for Osama Ali, a 24-year-old resident of Rawalkot in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK), who wanted to travel to India to treat his liver tumour. Swaraj tweeted that PoK was an integral part of India and Pakistan had illegally occupied it, so residents did not need a letter to enter India.
In June, she helped Kanwal Saadik secure a four-month medical visa for his two-and-a-half-month son, Rohaan, so he could get heart surgery in India. On June 13, the family arrived in India for a surgery to treat a hole in Rohaan's heart at Jaypee Hospital in Noida.