Taliban reach out to India over resumption of flights, scholarships

  • These contacts have come at a time when the Indian government has indicated it is in no hurry to recognise the interim cabinet created by the Taliban
Indians evacuated from Afghanistan after Taliban takeover, arrive at the IGI airport on August 22. HT photo
Indians evacuated from Afghanistan after Taliban takeover, arrive at the IGI airport on August 22. HT photo
Updated on Sep 30, 2021 02:48 AM IST
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By, New Delhi

The Taliban setup in Kabul has been reaching out to the Indian side to explore the continuation of contacts in different fields, ranging from resumption of commercial flights to scholarships for Afghan students, people familiar with matter said on Wednesday.

These contacts have come at a time when the Indian government has indicated it is in no hurry to recognise the interim cabinet created by the Taliban, which is dominated by hardliners and members of the UN-designated Haqqani Network. The people cited above said on condition of anonymity that there had been no formal response to any of the Taliban proposals.

The Afghanistan Civil Aviation Authority, which is now controlled by the so-called “Islamic Emirate” of the Taliban, sent a formal communication to India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on September 7 regarding the resumption of commercial flights between the two countries from Kabul airport.

The letter, addressed to DGCA chief Arun Kumar and signed by “acting minister” Hameedullah Akhunzada, contends that the Kabul airport was “damaged and [made] dysfunctional” by American troops before their withdrawal last month. The airport had been made operational again with aid from Qatar and a NOTAM or “notice to airmen” in this regard had been issued on September 6, the letter adds.

In recent days, Taliban officials such as acting foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi have reached out to the Indian side through intermediaries to take up issues such as travel by Afghan students who have secured scholarships offered by the Indian government, the people cited above said.

Muttaqi was reportedly keen that Afghan students holding Indian scholarships, including those awarded for the 2021 academic session, should be allowed to travel to the country.

The people said the Indian side is in no hurry to take a call on recognising the Taliban setup or to respond to the messages from the Taliban, especially at a time when no other country has established official relations with the dispensation in Kabul.

State-run Air India stopped flights to Kabul on August 15.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2022