Gurdwara attack ‘message’ could delay India’s plans to reopen Kabul embassy

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The team led by a director-level manager is being finalized to set up consular, visa and humanitarian functions in Kabul, sources said.

The team led by a director-level manager is being finalized to set up consular, visa and humanitarian functions in Kabul, sources said.

The attack on the Karta-e-Parwan Gurdwara in Kabul in which two people, including an Afghan Sikh and a security guard, were killed in a terrorist attack claimed by Islamic State-Khorasan (IS -K) in response to the comments on the Prophet Mohammad by the spokespersons of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has revived the debate on whether India should go ahead with its plan to reopen its embassy in Kabul, according to a number of officials.

In particular, Indian intelligence sources believe that IS-K is linked to Pakistan and that the attack could also be a “message” from the neighboring country to Kabul and New Delhi, given the talks with the Taliban on the return from India to Afghanistan.

The fate of the Indian Embassy was discussed when a team of officials from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) led by Joint Secretary JP Singh visited Kabul on June 2, the first such visit since the takeover of the Taliban last August. The team met with Taliban-appointed ministers, including Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Mottaqi and Acting Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani, among others.

According to sources, the embassy’s plans had gained momentum over the past few weeks, and a team of diplomats led by a director-level official was being finalized to travel to Kabul and set up a base there. consular and visa functions and to coordinate humanitarian assistance to Afghans.

The MEA declined to comment on the matter, but the sources, who requested anonymity, confirmed the team was due to travel to Afghanistan later this month, pending security clearances. At present, a skeleton staff of local Afghans maintains the embassy on Kabul’s Shar-e-Naw. The consulates in Kandahar, Jalalabad and Herat, which were closed earlier, could take much longer to reopen, however.

Despite previous animosity, including attacks on the Indian embassy led by the Haqqani group in the past, the Taliban regime has made a number of calls for India to reopen the embassy, ​​which was closed in August 2021, and offered to guarantee mission security.

At least 13 countries, including Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan, Indonesia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Central Asian states and the European Union , have embassies in Kabul, while the United States has delegated Qatar to officiate on its behalf.

“India is a historical friend of Afghanistan and the return of its diplomatic mission will certainly be welcomed by the Afghan people,” former President Hamid Karzai said. The Hinduwhen asked about the possibility.

However, India’s former ambassador to Afghanistan, Amar Sinha, said the attack on the gurdwara is a “clear warning” that Indian interests and minorities will be attacked, “despite assurances from the Taliban leadership”.

“A small, low-level contingent will not be very useful as it will have the double handicap of insecurity and also the lack of high-level access,” Sinha said. “Such a decision must be made with a clear understanding of our objectives…there can be no half measures,” he added.

During the visit to Afghanistan, Singh and Indian officials had investigated the distribution of Indian humanitarian aid, including wheat and medicine, as well as the status of infrastructure projects previously undertaken by Indian companies. , which the Taliban want to see restarted. Experts say this may have raised alarm bells in the Pakistani establishment. In addition, concerns in Rawalpindi may have been raised after a statement by Acting Defense Minister Mullah Yaqub, son of Taliban founder Mullah Omar, suggesting that the Taliban may continue the practice of sending Afghan soldiers for training in India, and another from the leader of Hizb e Islami. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar suggesting that the Taliban’s ties with India were growing at the expense of its ties with Pakistan.

The absence of any Indian presence in Afghanistan and the introduction of the electronic visa system and the cancellation of all pre-existing visas for Afghans by the Modi government last year has meant that Afghans, including more than 160 minorities remaining Sikhs and Hindus and thousands of students, had not received visas to travel to India. Many of them had made desperate pleas to government helplines and on social media for India to reconsider, but only a few dozen e-visas had been issued until June. However, in an overnight response to the gurdwara attack on Saturday, the government decided to issue over 100 e-visas to minorities.

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