Earlier this week, Ameer Khan Muttaqi, the Taliban’s interim foreign minister, said that they will pay "extra attention" to the security of the Indian Embassy in Kabul if New Delhi considers re-establishing a diplomatic presence. India's National Security Advisor Ajit Doval had recently hinted at New Delhi’s openness to engage with the Taliban.
In a significant development, a delegation of senior Indian officials is currently on a visit to the Afghan capital Kabul where they will meet senior Taliban leaders and oversee the humanitarian aid distribution, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said on Thursday. It is the first official visit by an Indian delegation to Afghanistan since the Islamist group returned to power last year in August.
The team, led by J P Singh, joint director [Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran (PAI) division at the MEA, will “meet representatives of the International Organisations involved in the distribution of the humanitarian assistance” and is expected to “visit various places where Indian programs/projects are being implemented,” according to a statement released by the ministry.
Last year, India ended its diplomatic presence in Afghanistan, closing its embassy in Kabul, and consulates in other cities, after the Taliban came to power, toppling the erstwhile Afghan government.
Although New Delhi hasn’t yet recognized the Taliban regime, Indian officials earlier met a few times with senior Taliban representatives in third countries like Qatar, UAE, and Russia, to discuss humanitarian aid to the people of Afghanistan.
For months, India has been providing food, wheat, and essential medicines in the form of assistance to crisis-hit Afghan people. The Taliban, the de facto rulers now, acknowledged and appreciated Delhi's assistance.
“India’s development and humanitarian assistance have received a widespread appreciation across the entire spectrum of Afghan society….In this connection, the Indian team will meet the senior members of the Taliban, and hold discussions on India’s humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan,” reads the statement released by the ministry.
Importantly last year, New Delhi ended its diplomatic presence considering possible security threats to its missions in the country. During the last twenty years, the Haqqani Network, one of the most powerful factions in the now ruling Taliban, was involved in multiple brutal attacks on Indian targets, alleged in connivance with Pakistan’s Intelligence Agency, ISI.
However, since its return to power, several Taliban leaders, including those belonging to the Haqqani Network, in their recent media interviews have urged New Delhi to re-open its embassy in Kabul and given assurances to provide security.
Earlier this week, Ameer Khan Muttaqi, the Taliban’s interim foreign minister, said that they will pay "extra attention" to the security of the Indian Embassy in Kabul if New Delhi considers re-establishing a diplomatic presence.
India's National Security Advisor Ajit Doval had recently hinted at New Delhi’s openness to engage with the Taliban.
“The special relationship with the people of Afghanistan over the centuries will guide India’s approach… Nothing will change this,” Doval said while addressing the 4th Regional Security Dialogue in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.
He also asserted that New Delhi remained an "important stakeholder" in Afghanistan and provided over $3 billion in the form of developmental assistance to the country.
Vivek Katju, a former Indian envoy to Afghanistan, told Hindustan Times, “At long last, we have taken a sensible step. I hope this will lead to a permanent Indian presence in Kabul at a suitable level.”