India’s invitation to Taliban envoy in UAE is ‘routine’, there is no change in stance, say...

India’s invitation to Taliban envoy in UAE is ‘routine’, there is no change in stance, say officials

Republic day invitation to Haqqani by Indian Embassy raises criticism from former diplomats, Afghan non-Taliban representatives

The invitation from the Indian Embassy in the UAE to the acting Afghan Ambassador and Taliban envoy Badruddin Haqqani, for the Republic Day reception is “routine”, official sources said, reacting to criticism that the Modi government is ‘normalising’ the Taliban regime, especially those responsible in the past for terror attacks on Indian missions. Badruddin Haqqani, the Charge d’Affaires at the Afghan Embassy in Abu Dhabi was formerly a member of the Haqqani network, and believed to be a close associate of its heads, Taliban Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani and his father, Jalaluddin Haqqani.

Explaining the invitation for the reception to be held at an Abu Dhabi hotel on January 26 , the sources said that the invitation had gone out as a routine practice to all diplomatic missions accredited by the UAE government, with the exception of Pakistan (with whom India’s diplomatic ties are frozen). In addition, the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi addressed the invitation to the envoy of the Embassy of the “Islamic Republic of Afghanistan”, not the Islamic Emirate, and the sources pointed out that the Afghan Embassy in UAE still flies the Republic tricolour. India too has allowed the Embassy in Delhi, that was closed down in protest by the previous Ambassador Farid Mamundzay, to be reopened by Afghan Consuls who are more engaged with the Taliban regime, but the flag on the embassy has not changed to the Taliban regime’s flag.

The Haqqani network was held responsible for several attacks on Indian missions in Afghanistan, including the 2008 Kabul Embassy car bombing in which 58 people were killed, including two senior Indian diplomats and two Indian security forces personnel. The invitation to a member of the group, addressed as “His Excellency Badruddin Haqqani” that was reported on social media by Afghan journalist Bilal Sarwary raised eyebrows amongst the Indian diplomatic community, with one former diplomat, who asked not to be identified, referring to it as “creeping recognition” of the Taliban. 

“This [invitation] is utterly against Afghans’ basic expectation of India as an emerging democratic power to protect and defend Afghans’ human rights and to support their growing resistance against the same terrorists who bombed the Indian Embassy in Kabul and killed and wounded many Indian citizens,” Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Sri Lanka Ashraf Haidari, who represents the Republic since before the Taliban takeover in 2021, said. “Afghans urge India to end any normalisation of the Taliban,” he added.

No country has given recognition to the Taliban regime thus far. However, in several countries, including Russia, China and Central Asian states, Taliban representatives have been accredited as Acting Ambassadors and the Taliban’s  black and white “Islamic Emirates” flag has been hoisted as opposed to the Republic’s black, green and red tricolour. In December 2023, China even accepted Taliban appointee Bilal Karimi as a fully accredited Ambassador, becoming the first country to do so.

The Ministry of External Affairs did not respond to a question on whether Indian embassies in Beijing, Moscow and other countries would also invite the Afghan envoys accredited by host governments who have been appointed by the Taliban.

“The invite itself has caused confusion,” Kabir Taneja, a Fellow of the Strategic Studies Programme at Observer Research Foundation.  “The question is not about normalisation here, as Indian diplomats met Sirajuddin Haqqani in 2022, but why the need to invite Taliban envoy to a Republic Day event in UAE?” He noted, however, that the invitation marked a “continuation” of India’s engagement with the Taliban, “specifically at a time when they have an increasingly fractured relationship with Pakistan.”

The Taliban’s ‘Acting Foreign Ministry’  had replaced the former Afghan Ambassador to the UAE, Ahmed Sayer Daudzai, in October 2023 with Badruddin Haqqani, who had been posted to Abu Dhabi as First Secretary in the Embassy in 2022, Mr. Sarwary said. At the time, the Taliban Foreign Ministry spokesperson had called the UAE’s “acceptance of Mawlavi Badruddin Haqqani…an important development in the relations between the two countries”, indicating it expects that the UAE, one of the only countries to recognise the Taliban during its previous reign from 1996-2001, will further strengthen ties with the Taliban regime.

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