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New Delhi: In what could be the first step towards resuming full presence in Afghanistan, a “technical team” arrived at the Indian embassy in Kabul to “closely monitor and coordinate the efforts of various stakeholders” for the effective delivery of humanitarian assistance.
In a statement, the Ministry of External Affairs said India has a “historical and civilisational relationship with the Afghan people”.
“In order to closely monitor and coordinate the efforts of various stakeholders for the effective delivery of humanitarian assistance and in continuation of our engagement with the Afghan people, an Indian technical team has reached Kabul today and has been deployed in our Embassy there,” the statement said.
Though the composition of the technical team has not been made public, it is said to be led by a junior-level officer. This is India’s first permanent diplomatic presence in Afghanistan since the ambassador left in August 2021, with the Taliban takeover of the country imminent.
India is unlikely to have an explicit diplomatic presence in Afghanistan until the larger international community recognises the Taliban government.
The carefully-worded statement only refers to engagement with the Afghan people and providing humanitarian assistance but does not mention engaging with the Taliban government.
The statement avoids describing the diplomatic function of the ‘technical team’, as New Delhi does not recognise the Taliban government and neither does most of the international community, including the United Nations.
“Our longstanding links with Afghan society and our development partnership including humanitarian assistance for the people of Afghanistan, will continue to guide our approach going forward,” the statement says.
The ministry added, “Recently, another Indian team had visited Kabul to oversee the delivery operations of our humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan and met with senior members of the Taliban. During the visit, an assessment of the security situation was also carried out.”
India played down that visit too, though the Taliban called it a sign of a “good beginning”. It called for the reopening of the Indian embassy. Then too, the Indian side stressed that the only purpose of the visit was to oversee India’s humanitarian assistance.
On June 18, a powerful explosion ripped through a gurudwara in Kabul, killing two people, which external affairs minister S. Jaishankar described as a “cowardly” act. The Islamic State–Khorasan Province (ISKP), an affiliate of the Islamic State militant group, claimed responsibility for the attack and said that it was in response to “insults levelled at the Prophet Mohammed”. This was an apparent reference to remarks by BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma.
In a separate development, MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said the first consignment of India’s relief assistance arrived in Kabul. More than 1,000 people died in the disaster, the deadliest in nearly two decades.
First consignment of India’s earthquake relief assistance for the people of Afghanistan reaches Kabul. Being handed over by the Indian team there.
Further consignment follows. pic.twitter.com/6v1oYSRZLO
— Arindam Bagchi (@MEAIndia) June 23, 2022