Taliban Claims Diplomatic 'Upgrade' of India in Kabul With No Apparent Change on the Ground

While the Taliban foreign ministry on August 13 tweeted to 'welcome' India's decision to 'upgrade' its diplomatic representation in Kabul, official sources in the ministry of external affairs refuted the claim.

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New Delhi: Afghanistan’s foreign ministry on Saturday, August 13, said it “welcomes India’s step to upgrade its diplomatic representation in Kabul” a day after external affairs minister S. Jaishankar had said that a team of Indian diplomats, except the ambassador, had gone to Afghanistan to continue India’s people-to-people relationship with the Afghan society.

However, official sources in the ministry of external affairs told The Wire that India’s diplomatic presence remained the same in Afghanistan without any new changes, and described the Taliban foreign ministry’s reaction as a mere “matter of interpretation”.

On Saturday, the spokesperson of the Taliban foreign ministry took to Twitter to “welcome” India’s decision. “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan welcomes India’s step to upgrade its diplomatic representation in Kabul. Besides ensuring security, we will pay close attention to the immunity of the diplomats and cooperate well in endeavors,” wrote Abdul Qahar Balkhi on Twitter.

He further went on to say it would “strengthen” Afghan-India relations. “The Afghan government hopes that upgrading diplomatic representation and dispatching diplomats would strengthen Afghan-India relations leading to the completion of unfinished projects by India and the commencement of new vital projects,” he added.

Speaking to media in Bengaluru on Friday, August 12, Jaishankar had said that a batch of diplomats had now gone back after they left the embassy in Afghanistan in August last year due to the deteriorating situation. He had also said that the Afghan staff who were hired there continue to be there and India would pay them.

“What we decided was that we would send the Indian diplomats back to the embassy, not the ambassador, and make sure that they are able to function and able to address a lot of these issues – humanitarian assistance, the medical assistance, the vaccine, the development projects, etc.,” Jaishankar had told reporters in Bengaluru during an interaction programme.

“So at the moment, what we have is a team of Indian diplomats who have gone there,” Jaishankar had said.

Speaking about Afghanistan after August 15 last year when the Taliban took over the country, the external affairs minister had then said: “We have taken a very considered deliberated view that our relationship at the end of the day is with the people of Afghanistan, to the society and that it is a relationship which is deep enough and in a sense, historically long enough for us to actually find ways of factoring in these political changes and continuing that people-to-people, so like a relationship.”

He had said back then that when there was a food crisis in Afghanistan with a “very extreme demand for wheat”, India supplied them 40,000 tonnes of food grain.

Transporting wheat to Afghanistan “was also a very complex diplomatic exercise because we had to persuade the Pakistanis to allow them to go through Pakistan, which we did”, the minister had said.

“India also supplied COVID-19 vaccine to Afghanistan and addressed their medical issues by supplying medicines because India has set up hospitals and clinics, including a pediatric hospital in Kabul,” he had explained. “This apart, India carried out a lot of development projects in Afghanistan as well.”

(With PTI inputs)