Afghanistan Diplomacy 
Afghan Embassy in India closing “good beginning for better ties”, say Taliban

Nirupama Subramanian | 02/10/2023

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An #AwaazSouthAsia Exclusive

Afghanistan's two year old Taliban regime has welcomed the closure of the Afghan Embassy in New Delhi as a “good beginning” that will help improve ties between the two countries.

In an exclusive conversation with #AwaazSouthAsia, the Afghan Taliban sources did not deny that the Taliban regime would now try and send its own diplomats to run the embassy.

The closure of the Afghan embassy, which had remained loyal to the previous Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, happened soon after China's ambassador to the Taliban government began his work in real earnest in Kabul.

“Diplomats are needed to improve relations between the country they represent and the host country. They are needed to convey important messages to the host country. But the Afghan embassy was not in a position to do these things,” said the Afghan Taliban sources.

The Afghan diplomats running the embassy in Delhi were “not connected” to Kabul, the sources said, and accused them of “instead, trying to deteriorate relations between Kabul and Delhi, even creating distrust.”.

On September 30, Ambassador Farid Mamundzay, who was heading the Afghan embassy in Delhi put out a statement citing reasons for his inability to keep the mission open, including lack of resources, and the absence of critical support from the host government.

While the Taliban regime has taken control of some 18 of Afghanistan's diplomatic missions abroad, Delhi was not one of them, even though indications were aplenty that the Taliban wanted a change.

In May, the trade counsellor at the embassy, Qadir Shah, produced a communication from the foreign ministry in Kabul appointing him charge d'affaires in Delhi in the absence of Ambassador Farid Mamundzay, who was away at the time. Mamundzay has remained loyal to the IRA and made it a point to fly the former Republic's flag at the embassy, located in Delhi's Chanakyapuri.

According to Afghan diaspora sources, over the last eight months, Mamundzay had made several requests to the Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi to meet Indian officials, but these communications went unheeded. According to one source, the joint secretary in charge of Afghanistan in the Ministry of External Affairs, who is the contact point for the mission, J P Singh, simply did not respond.

The shutting down of the Afghan school, run by the embassy with some funding from the Indian government, was another sign that Delhi's earlier goodwill for the IRA was running out.

Over the last two years, Mamundzay had also tried without success to persuade Delhi to re-issue visas to over 2,500 Afghan students who could not return to India after the August 15, 2021 Taliban takeover in Afghanistan.

These students had been studying in universities and colleges across India, and had gone home during the Delta wave of Covid. When they tried to return after the Taliban takeover, Delhi announced that all Afghan visas stood cancelled, citing security concerns. A sizeable number of these Afghan students belong to the Tajik and Hazara communities, and are living in fear of their lives in Afghanistan. Many are women, who are no longer permitted by the Taliban to pursue any education.

Thousands of Afghans who remained in India during those months in 2021 continue to study in India.

Since June 2022, when India reopened its mission in Kabul – it had been shut down in 2021 after the Taliban take over and evacuation of all Indians, including those posted at the Indian embassy in Afghanistan – Delhi has been dealing directly with the Taliban regime through the “technical team” posted there. India has so far not sent an ambassador to Afghanistan, because the Taliban isn't recognised internationally, and conducts all its dealings through a deputy chief of mission.

The Taliban sources told #Awaaz that the closure of the Delhi embassy was “good for the interests of both countries, and will allow them to remain engaged”.

The sources said the Taliban regime has some nominees in mind to take charge of the Delhi embassy, but declined to say anything more in this regard. They only described the embassy closure as a “good beginning”.

“Any embassy should represent the government in power, otherwise it will not be able to provide necessary consular services to people and build confidence and positive relations between the two countries which we both need," one Taliban official said.

Members of the Afghan diaspora are viewing the latest developments with concern. 

As news of the closure emerged last Thursday, the embassy in Delhi was besieged by hundreds of Afghans wanting to get their passports renewed and for other paperwork.

“They worked late that day to see that they cleared the work of most of the people who had rushed to the embassy that day,” one person said. The officials have sent out a communication that they will reopen for just one day this week to return peoples' documents.

One student who has been unable to return from Afghanistan to resume his studies in India told AwaazSouthAsia that he wept when he heard about the closure.

"I felt like my own home in India has been closed down," he said.

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