India rules out immediate closure of embassy in Afghanistan | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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India rules out immediate closure of embassy in Afghanistan

Aug 13, 2021 03:35 AM IST

India evacuated some 50 officials and security officials from its consulate in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif early on Wednesday against the backdrop of Taliban fighters making rapid advances in the region. The move came exactly a month after evacuated a similar number of personnel from the consulate in southern Kandahar city.

India on Thursday ruled out the immediate closure of its embassy in Afghanistan amid the rapid deterioration of the security situation and said it continued to be engaged with all stakeholders to work for a comprehensive ceasefire and a political settlement.

An Afghan security personnel stands guard along the roadside in Herat on Thursday as the Taliban took over the police headquarters in Herat, Afghanistan's third-largest city and also seized another key district capital just 150 kilometres from capital Kabul. (AFP PHOTO.)
An Afghan security personnel stands guard along the roadside in Herat on Thursday as the Taliban took over the police headquarters in Herat, Afghanistan's third-largest city and also seized another key district capital just 150 kilometres from capital Kabul. (AFP PHOTO.)

Rapid advances made by the Taliban in recent days, including the capture of nine provincial capitals and fresh attacks on Kandahar and Herat on Thursday, have sharpened security concerns in New Delhi. The Indian government is keeping a close eye on the situation and plans have been drawn up to deal with all contingencies, people familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity.

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External affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi dismissed the possibility of any immediate closure of the Indian mission in Kabul but acknowledged that the rapidly evolving security situation across Afghanistan was “of concern”.

“We are monitoring the situation very carefully but there are no plans as such [to close the embassy],” Bagchi told a regular media briefing.

India evacuated some 50 officials and security officials from its consulate in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif early on Wednesday against the backdrop of Taliban fighters making rapid advances in the region. The move came exactly a month after evacuated a similar number of personnel from the consulate in southern Kandahar city.

The people cited above ruled out any immediate evacuation of officials from Kabul, saying that the government was preparing for all eventualities, including the possible rapid withdrawal of diplomats and Indian nationals.

According to information provided by the government in Parliament recently, some 1,500 Indians were in Afghanistan. However, the people said this figure would have come down as many Indians working on development projects had been sent back.

Bagchi also pointed to the role being played in Afghanistan by terrorists and jihadi fighters from Pakistan-based groups. Recent reports have said thousands of fighters from groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan have been fighting alongside the Taliban.

“Everyone in the world knows what type of role is being played and what concerns others have about jihadi and terrorist elements from Pakistan and what they have done in Afghanistan. The whole world knows it, we don’t need to tell others about it,” he said.

The removal of “external malign influences” is essential for for peace in Afghanistan. “We would hope all parties, including regional countries, understand this and work towards a situation where Afghans can have a process that is owned, controlled and led by them. We certainly don’t think that’s currently the situation,” he added.

Bagchi said the Indian government is also keeping a close eye on all developments regarding Afghanistan’s Hindu and Sikh minorities. “Last year, our mission in Kabul had facilitated the return of 383 members of the Sikh and Hindu communities in Afghanistan. Our mission continues to remain in touch with the Afghan Hindu and Sikh community members and we will ensure the provision of all necessary assistance to them,” he said.

He declined to comment on reports about a fresh US security assessment that Kabul could fall to the Taliban within 30 to 90 days. He added: “We continue to hope that there will be an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire. We are supporting all peace initiatives in Afghanistan. Our primary concern is peace and stability in that country and offering a prosperous future [in an] independent, sovereign and democratic [country].”

The external affairs ministry’s pointperson for Afghanistan, joint secretary JP Singh of the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran desk, represented India at a regional conference hosted by Qatar in Doha on Thursday to find ways to take forward the stalled Afghan peace process. Key stakeholders from Afghanistan also joined the meeting, for which Qatari special envoy Mutlaq bin Majed Al-Qahtani extended an invitation during a visit to New Delhi last week.

This was the third meeting on Afghanistan held in Doha since Tuesday, when representatives of the US, the UK, China, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Qatar, Russia, the UN and the European Union met in the Qatari capital. Wednesday saw a meeting of the “extended troika” that was joined by special envoys from the US, Russia, China and Pakistan.

However, the lack of consensus was evident from the fact that extended troika meeting did not produce a joint statement. The last two meetings of this group convened by Russia had resulted in such statements.

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