India engaging the Taliban in ‘various formats’, says MEA spokesperson

The Taliban on January 29 organised a Regional Cooperation Initiative meeting which included representatives and envoys of 12 countries that are leading stakeholders in Afghanistan

February 01, 2024 11:32 pm | Updated 11:32 pm IST - NEW DELHI

People stand outside the Afghan Embassy in New Delhi, India. File

People stand outside the Afghan Embassy in New Delhi, India. File | Photo Credit: AP

Days after an Indian delegation participated in the Regional Cooperation Initiative meeting in Kabul under the leadership of the Taliban, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Thursday reiterated India’s relation with the Afghan people and acknowledged that Indian diplomats have been engaging the Taliban on “various formats”.

“We have been attending several meetings on Afghanistan in various formats both at the digital and international levels. You would have seen that recently we also participated in regional meeting in Kabul where the head of our technical team attended. He apprised the meeting of India’s long-standing friendship with the Afghan people and the humanitarian assistance that we are carrying out in the country,” the MEA’s official spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal in response to a question from The Hindu.

The Taliban on January 29 organised a Regional Cooperation Initiative meeting which included representatives and envoys of 12 countries that are leading stakeholders in Afghanistan. Apart from India, the meeting included delegates from Kazakhstan, Türkiye, Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, and Afghanistan. The meeting was led by the ‘acting foreign minister’ of the Taliban administration, Amir Khan Muttaqi, who said that the meeting was aimed at fostering “region-centric narrative aimed at developing regional cooperation for a positive and constructive engagement between Afghanistan and regional countries”.

India has refused to recognise the Taliban since the group came to power through an armed insurgency in August 2021, and has maintained a cautious position catering only to the humanitarian requirements of the Afghans. Since 2022, India has stationed a “technical team” at the Embassy in Kabul, which does not have a full fledged Ambassador. In November 2023, the Afghan Embassy in New Delhi was shut amidst controversy and infighting among Afghans stationed in India, which indicated that some of the officials were willing to work for the Taliban administration in Kabul.

In the meanwhile, the Taliban set-up in Kabul has reached out to multiple world capitals and on January 30, President Xi Jinping of China accepted the letter of credential of Taliban’s official Ambassador to China, Mawlawi Asadullah.

The Taliban has been increasing international presence in multiple capitals while denying education to Afghan women. While India has remained cautious, China has increased diplomatic engagement with Kabul as represented by the exchange of envoys between Kabul and Beijing. Beijing sent a new envoy to Kabul in September 2023. The MEA’s official spokesperson, however, did not elaborate if India would follow the example of others who have established diplomatic relations with the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, and grant de facto recognition.

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