In all, 140 Indians, including the last of the Indian embassy staff, Indo-Tibetan Border Police personnel and four mediapersons took off from the Kabul airport on board a special military flight on August 17 morning. The flight, a C-17 Globemaster, was one of the two military aircraft operated by the Indian Air Force for the purpose of bringing home all Indian personnel from the embassy.
On August 16, another C-17 flight had brought back about 40 diplomats and other personnel, after the others were turned back from driving to the airport by Taliban guards in Kabul city. A tense day followed, as Indian diplomats, led by Ambassador Rudrendra Tandon, coordinated with the new militia now in control of the capital and other diplomatic missions to ensure that the convoy of 140 reached Kabul airport on August 16 night. After spending the night at the airport, all Indians were boarded around 6 a.m. According to the tracker data, both flights took a long and circuitous route avoiding Pakistani airspace and minimising travel through Afghan airspace, to fly over Iran and returned to India over the Arabian sea, and back over Gujarat.
The return of all diplomatic staff means that the Indian diplomatic mission in Afghanistan is at least, temporarily, closed. Prior to this India had closed missions in Jalalabad and Herat last year and consulates in Kandahar and Mazar-e-Sharif in the last month. The government will now have to decide on the nature of relations with the Taliban government in Kabul, once it is formally announced.
The government will also have to decide how to help any Indians still stranded in Kabul as no commercial aircraft were allowed to land after chaos on the tarmac on August 16 that left at least five Afghans dead. In addition, Afghans wanting to flee to India and were able to receive visas in the last few days would also have to be considered. On August 16, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said it would facilitate “Hindus and Sikhs” and would “stand by” India's Afghan partners who worked on projects with India. The MEA has set up helplines: Phone number: +919717785379 and email: MEAHelpdeskIndia@gmail.com
“Understand the anxiety of those seeking to return to India. Airport operations are the main challenge. Discussions on with partners in this regard,” said External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar in a tweet.
Talks on the government to be installed are still under way, as Taliban Deputy Leader Baradar is expected to meet with members of the “coordinating council” representing the previous Afghan leadership of former President Hamid Karzai and the peace talks chairman Abdullah Abdullah and Hizb-e-Islami chief Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. On August 16, the council leaders issued statements indicating that they were “in touch with the Islamic Taliban movement” and had “positive discussions”. Diplomatic sources said further talks could also take place in Doha, where issues such as guaranteeing rights for all Afghans, including women and minorities, and some sort of political representation for Afghans were at the top of the agenda.