The Embassy of India in Minsk has asked to see a credit card topped
up with $50 for each day spent in India, before they will issue a
While applying for a visa to India, I was once asked to prove that I had enough funds to support myself while in India. I was not asked to show them a prepaid credit card. I was asked to show a bank statement in my own name. Indian authorities do not ask for "topped up" credit cards as proof of funds. How would they even be able to check how much money was in the card?
If the Indian Embassy wanted proof of this person's funds, they would ask for a bank statement, not a prepaid credit card. Indeed, as @mazeem points out, they confirm this on their official website. Their practice is to ask for bank statements, not prepaid credit cards.
This leads me to question why your friend is asking for this. It seems highly unlikely that the Embassy has requested it. I would consider the possibility that he is asking for this credit card because he wants the money, unrelated to the application. In other words, he (or at least someone) may be trying to scam you out of money. If this is a close personal friend of yours whom you trust quite a lot, then I apologize for the suggestion. However, it seems like a clear possibility given this strange prepaid credit card request.
@EMotion's suggestion is a good one. Contact the Indian Embassy in Minsk and ask them whether they would have asked anyone for a prepaid credit card with $1000 as proof of funds. If the answer is "no" or "No, we would ask for a bank statement" (which it very likely will be) then it further confirms that something is wrong.
To give this person the benefit of the doubt, it's theoretically possible that he intends to deposit this money from the prepaid credit card into his account, and then show them the bank statement. However, even if this was the case, that would still mean he isn't being upfront with you about what the situation is. That does not inspire trust.
Continuing to give your friend the benefit of the doubt: As @HenningMakholm suggests:
Alternatively, the friend might be for real, but they're getting
scammed by a local "visa agent".
This is also possible. In this case, your friend is a bit gullible, but not a scammer or criminal.
Why is our friend being asked to put up this money up-front ($1,000
dollars for a 20 day holiday), especially as it is unnecessary?
It's quite possible to be asked to show proof of funds (in the form of a bank statement) while applying for a visa to India. That is not the strange aspect here. The strange aspect is the part about the prepaid credit card. Another thing I find unusual is that they're allegedly telling him how much money they expect to see. That's not my experience. When I was asked, I was simply asked to provide my bank statement to "show that I could support myself in India." They did not say "we expect to see X dollars." Again, this might be another indication that something is wrong with the request.
Also, for years the Indian government has clearly stated that people
travelling to India should not make any travel plans before they have
been given a visa. They now appear to be saying the opposite and that
as part of the visa application process they want to see flight
tickets in and out of India. Does anyone know why this 180 degree
turnaround has happened?
It does appear from the Indian Embassy in Minsk's website that they do require you to submit a "copy of the return air-ticket or booking confirmation." I'm not sure where they state that bookings should be not be made prior to applications in Belarus. I have found examples of it from Indian missions in other countries, but not for Belarus. Please note that different rules exist for application processes in different countries. So it's quite possible that one will have to show a ticket while applying in Belarus. How to deal with that? Perhaps one could get away with merely a reserved (non-binding) ticket? I'm not sure. One could probably get a ticket type that's refundable, but those are typically more expensive.
However, the most pressing issue for you here seems not to be the requirement of showing a ticket, but rather the strange request for the prepaid credit card. I believe it's overwhelmingly likely that this request originates from someone other than the Indian Embassy, namely someone with fraudulent motives. I'd advise you to carefully scrutinize all future requests coming through this person. Moreover, I recommend that you ask the embassy about the credit card request.
(And even without their confirmation, the indications pointing to fraud are already very strong.)
No matter what happens, don't send any prepaid credit card.
TL;DR: Asking for a "topped up" credit card makes zero sense. Do not send any money or card, and proceed very cautiously if at all.
I've received a response from the Indian Embassy in Minsk where they confirm that they do not ask for credit cards as proof of funds.
The applicant has to submit a proof of financial status for obtaining
Tourist Visa. Generally, we accept last 03 months bank statement and
last 06 months salary statement in support of applicant's financial
status. Embassy never asks to get a prepaid credit card. Information
is readily available on Embassy's Website.
Please ask your friend to visit embassy and meet me along with complete visa application and Supporting documents. Rest assured,
please do not get worried. Your friend will be well attended. Assuring
all the assistance and with best wishes.
Embassy of India