India reopens embassy in Kabul

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In a major step towards restoring its presence in Afghanistan, India sent a “technical team” of officials based in Kabul, reopening its embassy on Thursday. India also sent its first shipment of earthquake relief to Afghanistan, where more than 1,000 Afghans were killed in an earthquake outside the city of Khost. The MEA said the assistance was handed over by the Indian team who traveled on an Indian Air Force Ilyushin-76 aircraft, in the first such non-commercial military transport since last year.

The decision to reopen the embassy, ​​which comes more than ten months after the government closed the Indian embassy and withdrew all Indian staff after the fall of the Ghani government, marks a reversal in government policy on the engagement, and comes a few weeks after a team led by senior MEA official JP Singh traveled to Kabul to meet Taliban-appointed acting foreign minister Amir Khan Mottaqi, and the acting Interior Minister, Sirajuddin Haqqani, and received specific assurances on the security of the deployment. The Indian Embassy will become the 15th mission to open in Kabul with personnel to be deployed there under the Taliban regime, alongside Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, the European Union and four Central Asian states. The United States has delegated its diplomatic functions there to the Qatar Embassy.

“In order to closely monitor and coordinate the efforts of the various stakeholders for the effective delivery of humanitarian assistance and in pursuit of our engagement with the Afghan people, an Indian technical team arrived in Kabul today and was deployed to our embassy there,” the MEA said in a statement, citing India’s “historical and civilizational relationship with the Afghan people” as the reason for the decision.

As The Hindu had reported last week, plans for the team to be based in Kabul had to be reviewed after the Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K) attack on a gurdwara there, which specifically targeted Indian interests . Sources said The Hindu that the team led by a director-level diplomat based at the Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi has been finalized and is expected to travel to Kabul in mid-June, but the government has decided to review the situation after the terrorist attack on 18 June against Gurdwara Kart-e-Parwan in which two people were killed.

According to the sources, a reconstituted team, including security and engineering personnel, has now been sent to Kabul with the aim of setting up consular and visa arrangements, the distribution of humanitarian aid, as well as overseeing maintenance. and restarting various development projects. Indian companies had undertaken in Afghanistan.

No country has recognized the Taliban government in Afghanistan, which seized power by force in Kabul on August 15, toppling the democratically elected government of President Ashraf Ghani. However, the opening of the embassy is a step towards closer collaboration with the Taliban regime, officials said, especially as India worries about the impact of terrorist groups, drug trafficking and migration to the region.

In a statement at the regional meeting of security officials on Afghanistan last month, NSA Ajit Doval had marked the shift in India’s perception of the Taliban as a terrorist group, to a quasi-official entity , when he said that the countries of the region should “strengthen Afghanistan’s capacity to fight terrorism and terrorist groups that pose a threat to regional peace and security.

“Our long-standing ties with Afghan society and our development partnership, including humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people, will continue to guide our approach in the future,” the MEA said Thursday, in remarks echoing remarks of Mr Doval during the meeting in Dushanbe. .

Since India closed its embassy last August, the embassy has been maintained by local staff, and all pre-existing visas have been canceled and routed through a much delayed ‘e-visa’ system.

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