After Nine Months & Some Days
India had virtually snapped ties with Afghanistan after the Taliban took control of the war-ravaged South Asian nation on August 15, 2021. Exactly nine and a half months later, the Indian diplomats arrived in Kabul on June 2, 2022. Diplomats are of the opinion that although India has no plan to recognise the Taliban Government in Kabul or to revive bilateral ties in near future, New Delhi has, at least, taken the initiative to communicate with the Deobandi Islamic fundamentalist, militant Islamist and jihadist political movement.
Arindam Bagchi, the spokesperson of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), claimed that the visit of the Indian diplomats was aimed at providing much needed supplies to the people of Afghanistan and overseeing various Indian projects there. For his part, Defence Minister of Afghanistan Mullah Yaqub (the son of Taliban founder Mullah Omar) stressed that Kabul was ready to boost ties with New Delhi at multiple levels. During a media conference, he expressed his willingness to send Afghan Army personnel to India for military training, saying that they (India) “don’t have any issue with it”.
The Afghan defence minister urged the visiting Indian officials to help his country overcome the ongoing economic crisis. He assured them that the Taliban would never allow militants to use the Afghan soil for launching terror attacks in India. Describing India as a friendly nation, Yaqub stressed that the Taliban Government was eager to boost ties with New Delhi.
Meanwhile, the Indian External Affairs Ministry issued a statement, saying that the Indian delegation – led by J P Singh, the Joint Secretary in charge of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran (PAI) in the MEA – met a number of top Taliban leaders, including Taliban’s Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, upon their arrival in Kabul. Officials of the two countries discussed various bilateral issues, and the current socio-political-economic situation in Afghanistan. Later, the Indian officials inspected projects, being implemented by New Delhi, in the presence of their Taliban counterparts. They also met teachers and students of Habibia High School, the educational institution newly built with Indian funds and initiatives.
The MEA further claimed that the visiting Indian officials scrutinised the distribution of Indian aid among the Afghans, as New Delhi recently sent 20,000 tonnes of wheat, 13 tonnes of medicine, 0.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine and winter clothes to Kabul via Kabul-based Indira Gandhi Children’s Hospital, various branches of the UN, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Food Programme (WFP).
In New Delhi, Bagchi underlined that India has “historical and civilisational ties with the Afghan people”, stating: “These longstanding linkages will continue to guide our approach.” The MEA spokesperson added: “In continuation with our developmental partnership with Afghan brethren, we have gifted one million doses of India-made Covaxin to Iran to administer to Afghan refugees in Iran. We have also assisted UNICEF by supplying almost 60 million doses of polio vaccine and two tonnes of essential medicines. India’s development and humanitarian assistance has received widespread appreciation across the entire spectrum of Afghan society.“
Meanwhile, Bagchi made it clear that India would not recognise the Taliban Government in the coming days. When asked whether the visit meant more diplomatic engagement or recognition of the Taliban, he said that the media were “reading far too much into the visit”. He further said that the Taliban Government was yet to be officially recognised by the UN or any other country, in spite of the fact that the international community engaged with the top Taliban leadership at various levels.
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