New Delhi: While the Ministry of External Affairs asserts that it is in the process of verifying the letter’s authenticity, the Afghan ambassador has confirmed his intention to close the embassy by the upcoming weekend. However, the two other consulates in Mumbai and Hyderabad, which have established relations with the Taliban’s foreign ministry in Kabul, maintain that they are still operational.
A statement sent by the Afghan ambassador to India, Farid Mamundzay, said, “We affirm the authenticity of the communications, acknowledging that the content may be met with reservation by the MEA.”
The communication in question is the note verbale dated September 25, which was leaked and circulated on social media. It was addressed to the Indian Minister of External Affairs and conveyed the embassy’s decision to shutter its premises in New Delhi by September 30.
After the letter was reported, MEA sources had said on Thursday night that the content of the letter was being examined for its authenticity.
A day later, Mamundzay, who is currently in London, confirmed the letter in a statement. He also added that he had been absent since June 18, “with an Acting Ambassador actively overseeing the mission’s operations during this period”.
The statement added that the departure of Afghan diplomats “coincides with numerous diplomats coincides with an increasingly untenable situation in India”.
It went on to say that threats to families back in Afghanistan from the Taliban, as well as, a lack of support from the Indian government led to this decision. “It is regrettable that India is not extending rightful visa renewals for Afghan diplomats, let alone considering their continued presence.”
The statement also said that conditions faced by Afghan refugees in India highlight the “concerning aspect” of India’s non-membership in the Geneva Convention and its stance on asylum for Afghan citizens is a concerning aspect.
The Afghan ambassador’s statement seems to be in response to remarks by Indian official sources, who had pointed out that the current letter seems to be “in context of the Ambassador being out of India for past many months, steady departure of diplomats to third countries reportedly after receiving asylum as well as reports of infighting amongst Embassy personnel”.
After the Taliban took over in August 2021, India had evacuated its embassy in Kabul. However, India was back in Kabul in June 2022 with a ‘technical team’ made up of diplomats and security personnel. It had to work as a ‘de-facto’ embassy as India, just like the rest of the international community, does not recognise the Taliban regime.
The Afghan embassy in New Delhi continued to operate after the fall of the Islamic Republic, but did not recognise the Taliban regime. In May this year, the Taliban regime finally sent a directive that Farid Mamundzay, appointed by the previous Islamic Republic, should be removed and replaced with another diplomat as Charge D’affaires.
However, the Taliban-appointed diplomat was not allowed to take charge by his other colleagues when Mamundzay had been out of the country.
While the embassy in New Delhi received cold treatment from the Indian government, the consul generals met with a senior official in the Ministry of External Affairs to discuss issues related to Afghan nationals in India earlier this month. The two consulates in Mumbai and Hyderabad had also taken part in meetings chaired by the Taliban foreign minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, unlike their colleagues in New Delhi who ignored any instructions from Kabul.
On Friday, the two consulates issued a joint notice on their Facebook page on Friday rejecting “rumours” that the consulates would be shut down.
“We have always been in close contact with the Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and we are grateful to the Government of India and people who have always remained committed to their strategic partnership with Afghans and in the ongoing time with the people of Afghanistan,” said the notice from the two consulates.
Speaking to The Wire, the Afghan Consul General in Hyderabad, Sayed Mohammad Ibrahimkhil, said that the consulates were open and functional. He indicated that the letter did not have the requisite authority and they were trying to understand the situation.
When asked whether the consulate had the financial means to remain open, he said that they were able to keep afloat due to the fees charged on consular issues.