Afghanistan Embassy in India announces decision to cease operations

Afghanistan Embassy in India announces decision to cease operations

Embassy of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan calls for India to continue to fly Afghan national flag in the premises; denounces Taliban as ‘illegitimate’.

After months of uncertainty, the embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan here has finally shut down. In a message shared with the media, the mission that ran on skeletal staff and without the presence of the envoy appointed during the Presidency of Dr. Ashraf Ghani, blamed a number of factors including lack of support from the “host government” for ending operations. 

“The Embassy has experienced a notable absence of crucial support from the host government, which has hindered our ability to carry out our duties effectively,” a press statement from the mission stated. It cited “reduction in both personnel and resources” because of the arrival of the Taliban administration in Kabul and acknowledged that it has failed to meet “expectations in serving Afghanistan’s interests”. 

“Given these circumstances, it is with deep regret that we have taken the difficult decision to close all operations of the mission with the exception of emergency consular services to Afghan citizens till the transfer of the custodial authority of the mission to the host country,” the press note declared. The statement indicated at the deep divisions between the Taliban set-up in Kabul and former rulers as it cautioned against anyone in Afghan consulates in Hyderabad and Mumbai working for the present rulers of Kabul. Unlike the embassy in Delhi, the Afghan consulates in Hyderabad and Mumbai have not shut down and Consul General of Afghanistan in Mumbai Zakia Wardak had earlier announced on social media that they remain committed to serving the Afghan citizens who may require consular services in India.  

“It is our firm belief that any actions taken by these consulates are not in consonance with the objectives of a legitimate or elected government and rather serve the interests of an illegitimate regime,” the embassy said hinting at the Taliban adding, “Such activities, conducted independently, are contrary to the established norms of diplomatic representation.” The statement adds to the earlier reports of division among the ranks of the existing diplomatic staff within the embassy and the two consulates of Afghanistan.

Earlier, a source in the mission had informed The Hindu that ambassador Farid Mamundzay who left India more than three months ago did not return, creating a vacuum in the embassy which was deepened with the departure of at least four other senior officials, including his personal secretary. The Afghan embassy in New Delhi’s diplomatic enclave — Chanakyapuri — has been a witness to the tumultuous political history of Afghanistan and was handled by a varying number of political bosses in Kabul as governments changed multiple times starting from the late 1970s. However, the mission was not manned by the Taliban since the outfit became politically prominent starting with the 1996 overthrow and assassination of President Mohammed Najibullah.

After the fall of the last President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Dr. Ghani, India did not recognise the Taliban regime in Kabul and since June 2022 has maintained a “technical team” in the Indian embassy in Kabul. New Delhi is therefore not in a formal diplomatic relation with the Taliban set-up in Kabul and the outfit is unlikely to gain immediate ownership of the embassy that has belonged to the rulers of Kabul conventionally. 

The mission said that the decision to shut down was taken in accordance with the Article 45 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961, declaring that all property belonging to it will be transferred to the “custodial authority of the host country”. 

The public statement from the mission urged the government of India to continue to fly the flag of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan that was in existence between 2004 and 2021. Shutting of the mission in the absence of formal diplomatic ties with the Taliban has placed a question mark on the consular requirements of many Afghan students, traders and tourists who have been affected by the presence of the Taliban in Kabul. Afghanistan at present has two weekly flights to Delhi that ferry Afghan citizens to India but sources in the Afghan embassy said, visa-related difficulties have forced the flights to be largely used for cargo purposes. Interestingly, the closure came hours after the Moscow format dialogue on Afghanistan was held in Kazan, Russia, where the Taliban participated in discussion with stakeholders that included India. Taliban had earlier urged India to help in establishing economic stability of Afghanistan.

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