India to temporarily relocate personnel from consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif

Emergency evacuation flight likely to be operated from city.

August 10, 2021 03:14 pm | Updated November 22, 2021 09:49 pm IST - New Delhi

The Indian Consulate in the Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif. Photo: Facebook/@ConsulateGeneralofIndiamazareSharifAfghanistan

The Indian Consulate in the Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif. Photo: Facebook/@ConsulateGeneralofIndiamazareSharifAfghanistan

India will temporarily relocate India-based personnel from the consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan, an official said on Tuesday. The decision came on a day when the government gave an urgent call for evacuation of all Indian nationals from the Afghan city in a special flight that is expected to operate on late Tuesday.

In a separate statement, the Embassy in Kabul has urged all Indian citizens to make ‘immediate’ travel arrangements before commercial flights are discontinued because of intensifying conflict.

Also read: As Taliban makes gains, India keenly watches security at Kandahar, Mazar missions

Tuesday’s declarations came in the backdrop of Taliban forces rushing to the periphery of Mazar-e-Sharif after their latest conquest of Kunduz city near the border with Tajikistan.

“A special flight is leaving from Mazar-e-Sharif to New Delhi. Indian nationals in and around Mazar-e-Sharif are requested to leave for India in the special flight scheduled to depart late today evening. Indian citizens desiring to leave by special flight should immediately convey their full name, passport number, date of expiry by whatsapp at the following numbers: 0785891303 and 0785891301,” said the Twitter handle of the Indian consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif.

It is understood that a military aircraft will be used to bring back both Indian officials and citizens from the besieged Afghan city.

The temporary shut down of the Indian mission comes a month after India evacuated personnel from the consulate in Kandahar, effectively ending all consular work there. “We are evacuating all India-based personnel from Mazar-e-Sharif. The consulate will remain there under the care of the local staff,” said an official.

The Embassy in Kabul has called upon Indian nationals to take “immediate necessary steps” to ensure physical safety. A public notice has urged Indians to make “immediate travel arrangements” before flights are discontinued.

“Indian companies operating in Afghanistan are strongly advised to immediately withdraw their Indian employees out of project sites in Afghanistan before air travel services get discontinued,” said the Indian Embassy which also urged Indian media personnel reporting from the ground to follow security protocol because of rapid changes in the security situation on the ground.

The development came two days after the fall of the city of Kunduz to Taliban. Taliban fighters have declared that they are now coming to capture Mazar-e-Sharif, which is the fourth largest city of Afghanistan with more than half a million people.

The pre-eminent political figure of the city and its biggest warlord Atta Mohammed Noor has declared that he will fight the Taliban “till the last drop” of his blood. The declarations on both sides indicate a major military clash is expected to take place if the Taliban attacks the government forces in or around Mazar-e-Sharif. It is expected that the government of President Ashraf Ghani will put up a tough fight to save the ethnically diverse city from falling to the Taliban.

The Indian announcement reflects the deteriorating law and order in Afghanistan where the safety of foreign nationals has become difficult to ensure. The U.S. and the U.K. have already called upon their nationals to leave Afghanistan at the earliest after the Taliban made remarkable progress in capturing new areas increasing pressure on Kabul.

India has maintained that any party that captures power in Afghanistan by force will have to deal with a legitimacy issue. However, the situation seems to suggest that the Taliban is gaining an upper hand. Mazar-e-Sharif is close to the city of Kunduz near the Taijikistan border and is increasingly vulnerable to Taliban military campaign. Kunduz, a mainly non-Pashtoon dominated city, fell to the Taliban on Sunday.

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