1st team of Indian diplomats returns to Afghanistan after fall of US-backed Kabul administration last August.
The Taliban-led interim government called its meeting with Indian officials in the capital Kabul on Thursday a “good beginning,” urging New Delhi to resume diplomatic operations in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan’s acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi “welcomed the first Indian delegation to Kabul … calling it a good beginning in ties between the two countries,” said Abdul Qahar Balkhi, spokesperson for the Afghan Foreign Ministry.
Early on Thursday, a team of Indian diplomats landed in the Afghan capital for the first time since they rushed out when the US and allied forces left Afghanistan last August.
According to the Indian Foreign Ministry, the team has traveled to Kabul “to oversee the delivery operations of the country’s humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.”
Balkhi said discussions between the two sides “focused on India-Afghan diplomatic relations, bilateral trade and humanitarian aid.”
Expressing gratitude to India for its humanitarian and medical aid, Muttaqi stressed the need for “resumption of projects by India, their diplomatic presence in Afghanistan and the provision of consular services to Afghans, particularly to Afghan students and patients,” added Balkhi.
India dispatched shipments of humanitarian assistance, including wheat, medicines, COVID-19 vaccines and winter clothing, to Afghanistan via Pakistan. Iran had also offered to help India transport its humanitarian aid to the war-ravaged country.
The Indian delegation, Balkhi said, called for “positive relations with Afghanistan as in the past and that they would continue their assistance.”
“India would consider assisting and working with Afghanistan in various fields,” he said, adding that New Delhi recently opened up its borders and ports for Afghan exports, which has boosted Kabul’s export volumes.
The two sides also “agreed to expand interactions,” he added.
The Indian Foreign Ministry said its delegation would also meet representatives of international organizations involved in humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan.
“In addition, the team is expected to visit various places where Indian programs/projects are being implemented,” the ministry’s statement said.
The US froze more than $7 billion in Afghan foreign reserves, exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in a country struggling to recover from 20 years of war.
The UN and its partners launched a $4.4 billion funding appeal this January to avert a humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan, which UN Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief chief Martin Griffiths said was “the largest ever appeal for a single country.”
According to the UN, 22 million people inside Afghanistan and a further 5.7 million displaced Afghans in five neighboring countries need vital relief this year.