India has sent back a batch of diplomats to Kabul in a significant shift seen as giving a de facto recognition to the Afghan Taliban government.
In June, India first sent a technical team to its mission in Kabul after behind the scenes talks with the Afghan Taliban. The technical team arrived in Kabul after a senior Indian diplomat visited the Afghan capital and met the interim Afghan foreign minister.
This was the first public meeting between the Afghan Taliban government and the Indian officials highlighting the pragmatic approach adopted by New Delhi.
India in the past staunchly opposed the Afghan Taliban and despite insistence by the US it refused to engage with the group while negotiations were underway in Doha.
India invested massively in the previous Afghan administration led by first Hamid Karazai and then Ashraf Ghani. The close Indian ties with those administrations had been the cause of friction between New Delhi and Islamabad.
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Pakistan often suspected that India had been using the Afghan soil to undermine its security interests.
After the Taliban takeover in Kabul, India shut its embassy and other diplomatic missions as well as abandoned work on the development projects it was undertaking in the war-torn country.
Observers believe that since many other countries including the US have remained engaged with the Afghan Taliban hence New Delhi was left with no other option but to accept the new reality.
Indian External Affairs minister S Jaishankar on Friday confirmed that a batch of diplomats except the ambassador was sent back to Kabul.
“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 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,” he added.
According to the NDTC the Indian foreign minister 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 said when there was a food crisis in Afghanistan with a “very extreme demand for wheat,” India supplied them 40,000 tonne of the 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 added.
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The Afghan interim government welcomed the Indian move.
“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan welcomes Indian’s step to upgrade its diplomatic representation in Kabul. Besides ensuring security, we will play close attention to the immunity of the diplomats and cooperate well in endeavour,” the spokesperson of Afghan External Affairs Ministry said in a statement on Saturday.
“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 the new vital projects,” Abdul Qatar Balkhi added.
Pakistan in the past objected to the Indian involvement in Afghanistan. It saw New Delhi as a spoiler. However, there has been no reaction from Pakistan to the latest development. An official privately told The Express Tribune that Pakistan does not have any objection to Indian ties with the Afghan Taliban as long as it adheres to the diplomatic rule.
The official was confident that the Afghan Taliban were aware of Pakistan’s sensitivities and the interim government would not permit any activity detrimental to its bilateral ties with Islamabad.