India takes baby steps to dealing with Taliban
India on Thursday operationalised its embassy in Kabul in a limited manner by deploying a “technical team” to monitor and coordinate the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
New Delhi has also stepped in to provide relief to the earthquake-hit Paktika in northeastern Afghanistan, near the Pakistan border.
Two consignments of assistance have been flown into Afghanistan — the first on an IAF plane which also ferried the “technical team” on Thursday and the second on the Afghan commercial carrier, Kam Air, on Friday.
The Indian decision to send a technical team to Kabul comes less than a week after the June 18 attack on the Karte Parwan gurdwara, allegedly by the Islamic State in retaliation to the denigration of the Prophet by then BJP spokespersons.
New Delhi had pulled out all Indian staff from its Kabul embassy in mid-August last year following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
Announcing the deployment late on Thursday evening, the external affairs ministry said: “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.”
On June 2, India had sent its first team to Kabul under an MEA joint secretary to assess the state of Indian projects in the country and speak to the Taliban leadership.
Joint secretary J.P. Singh met Mawlawi Amir Khan Muttaqi, acting foreign minister, and visited some Indian projects besides the mission in Kabul, which had kept running with local staff who also assisted with delivery of the humanitarian assistance India had sent over the past few months.
Despite the visible contacts with the Taliban leadership and putting a team at the embassy, India has not committed itself to recognising the outlawed group in control of Afghanistan.
However, given the huge investments India has made in the country for over a decade now, allowing the vacuum to grow is also not something India can afford, particularly considering Pakistan’s interests and China’s footprint in the country.
Both India and Pakistan have been quick to come to Afghanistan’s aid after Wednesday’s earthquake. In a tweet quoting the ministry’s announcement of aid to Afghanistan, external affairs minister S. Jaishankar said: “India, a true first responder.”
The Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan had on Wednesday announced their preparedness to provide relief, with Pakistan using the advantage of a shared border to open two crossing points to bring in the seriously injured for treatment at its hospitals.