Why the Afghanistan embassy in India has shut down
Big changes are happening on the diplomatic front in India. While all attention is on the stand-off with Canada, something is brewing with Afghanistan. The Afghan embassy in New Delhi has close its operations from 1 October.
The embassy was run by diplomats from the earlier government. There was an ongoing power tussle between the Taliban regime, which took over Kabul two years ago, and its predecessor, the democratically elected Afghan government led by Ashraf Ghani.
“It is with profound sadness, regret, and disappointment that the Embassy of Afghanistan in New Delhi announces this decision to cease its operations,” the embassy said in a statement.
Why is the Afghan embassy shutting down in New Delhi?
The Afghanistan embassy informed India that it was being forced to close down because of the lack of cooperation from the Taliban government and New Delhi. “We acknowledge our shortcomings in meeting the expectations and requirements necessary to serve the best interests of Afghanistan and its citizens due to the lack of diplomatic support in India and the absence of a legitimate functioning government in Kabul,” the embassy statement read.
The decision was first conveyed in an unsigned Note Verbale to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) this week, indicating the embassy would close at the end of the month, according to a report in The Hindu. The note also mentioned that New Delhi had refused several letters of request, which asked for assistance and visas for close to 3,000 Afghan students who were scheduled to travel to India in 2021 but were not given travel papers.
The letter also requested that the Afghan tricolour be allowed to fly over the mission in New Delhi. The flag represents the democratic government of Afghanistan, which was overthrown by the Taliban regime, The Hindu reports.
Farid Mamundzay, Afghanistan’s ambassador to India, reportedly wrote a letter to the Taliban government that he had failed to deliver on every front as he did not receive support and diplomatic considerations, reports CNN-News18. He also said that requests to the Indian government for visas for traders and others did not yield any results.
The diplomat blamed the Taliban regime for India’s response and said that a lack of inclusivity in the Taliban-led government and the lack of credibility of those in power in Afghanistan played a role.
The Taliban government is not formally recognised by India or any other country in the world.
What happens to the Afghan envoy and diplomats?
Farid Mamundzay, Afghanistan’s envoy to India, was appointed by the previous Islamic Republic of Afghanistan led by former president Ashraf Ghani. He has been in London for several months now. The other diplomats have also received asylum in countries like the United States, Canada, and Australia.
Three Afghan diplomats remained in the embassy in New Delhi — Anwar Sadat, Sediqullah Sahar and Mosa Naimi, reports ThePrint. Sadat and Sahar were expected to leave the Capital on Thursday night for France, the sources added.
The news of the embassy shutdown comes after reports that 11 Indian staff were fired on Friday and were denied permission to enter the mission. Mamundzay had told ThePrint that the lack of funds from Kabul and other sources and the insufficient revenue generated by the mission left them with no other alternative but to lay off the employees.
What does India have to say?
Sources in the Indian government said that the Afghan embassy had issued a communication on the shutdown to the Ministry of External Affairs.
“The authenticity of the communication and its contents are being examined,” one of the sources was quoted as saying by news agency PTI. “This is in the context of the ambassador being out of India for the past many months, a steady departure of diplomats to third countries reportedly after receiving asylum as well as reports of infighting amongst embassy personnel.”
Indian government officials said that the decision to close the embassy was made by the Afghan side. “We have done our best to help and facilitate (their) mission here. This is their own decision. We sincerely want them to function,” the officials familiar with the developments told CNN-News18.
They also pointed out that the Afghan envoy has been missing for a while. Sources in the Indian government are reportedly upset with Mamundzay. “He is trying to create a rift between the Indian government and the Taliban,” one of the officials told CNN-News18. They explained that even though India has not recognised the Taliban-led government but activities of Mamundzay were “sufficient to create tensions between the Indian government and the Taliban regime”.
Why is Mamundzay under the scanner?
Corruption allegations emerged against the envoy in May. Back then Tolo News posted on Twitter a screenshot of an unsigned letter reportedly from Afghan refugees in India. It named three diplomats including Mamundzay, and accused them of corruption related to a land lease agreement with an Indian company.
However, Mamundzay has denied the allegations and told ThePrint recently that they were part of a broader agenda “in favour of Taliban’s motive to take over the mission”.
In April-May, the Afghan embassy was rocked by infighting amid reports that the Taliban appointed a charge d’affaires to head the mission, replacing Mamundzay. Qadir Shah, who had been working as a trade councillor at the embassy since 2020, wrote to the MEA in late April claiming that he was picked by the Taliban.
This happened when Mazumday was visiting his family in London. In May, he returned and the trade councillor was prohibited from entering the premised. Following the episode, the embassy came out with a statement that there was no change in its leadership.
Soon after Mazumday went back to London and has not returned to India for three months.
Does this mean the Taliban will take over the Afghan embassy?
This remains to be seen.
Notably, the Taliban regime has taken control of at least 14 missions overseas where it has posted its nominees. However, New Delhi is not one of them yet.
Pakistan, China, Russia, and Iran are among some of the countries that have allowed the appointment of diplomats endorsed by the Taliban. In these embassies, the Taliban or “Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan” (IEA) flag is raised rather than that of the democratically elected previous ”Islamic Republic of Afghanistan”.
India had shut its embassy in Kabul after the Taliban took over the country in August 2021. But, now it has a technical team to coordinate humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan.
With inputs from agencies