New Delhi: Nearly two months after all its operations had apparently ceased, the Afghan Consul Generals of Mumbai and Hyderabad declared their formal assumption of leadership at the Afghanistan embassy in New Delhi, marking a transition of the diplomatic mission towards a more cooperative relationship with the Taliban regime in Kabul.
In the last week of September, the Afghan embassy, which was manned by diplomats appointed by the Islamic Republic, sent a note verbale to the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, conveying intention to shutter its services from October 1, as they faced “increasingly untenable situation in India”.
After the October 1 ‘shut down’, the MEA had claimed that the embassy was still operating normally.
Early on Friday morning, the Afghan embassy again issued a statement that they were “permanently” closing down the embassy.
In answer to queries from The Wire on why the embassy can be ‘closed’ again, the Islamic Republic-appointed former Afghan ambassador to India, Farid Mamundzay, replied that while the embassy had “operationally closed” on October 1, but “on an emergency basis, we did provide some services”.
“Additionally, my colleagues temporarily closed the mission in protest over the conduct of the Indian government, with the hope that it would change, and they would be granted visas. Unfortunately, neither of these expectations materialized, leading us to the decision to permanently shut down the Republic mission,” said Mamundzay, who is currently in the UK. However, the charges of Afghan diplomats not being granted or delayed exit visas by Indian government is strongly disputed here.
By evening, it was clear that wheels had been spinning behind the scenes. The two senior Afghan diplomats posted in other cities, announced that they had already taken over the embassy. A press statement stated that the “Consul Generals of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in Mumbai, Ms. Zakia Wardak and Acting Consul General of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in Hyderabad, Mr. Sayed Mohammad Ibrahimkhil have assumed the leadership of the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, New Delhi”.
Press Statement by the consul general of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in Mumbai and Acting Consul General of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in Hyderabad regards closing of Afghanistan Embassy in New Delhi- India pic.twitter.com/HmCZcIaBFE
— Zakia Wardak (@ZakiaWardak) November 24, 2023
There has been no official response from the Ministry of External Affairs.
It is learnt that the two Afghan diplomats had been in Delhi on Friday and visited the embassy premises.
Sources told The Wire that there are no plans to alter the name of the embassy, and the red, black and white flag of the Islamic Republic will remain hoisted.
When The Wire asked Ibrahimkhil if he had physically started to work at the Embassy, he said that he was on way to the airport and will be back on Monday.
Later, Wardak posted a photo on her Facebook page on her meetings on Friday, where she and her colleague met with the local employees of the Afghan embassy inside the premises.
The statement from the two CGs also asks the “former Afghan Ambassador and former Afghan diplomats/officials to kindly not use the social media platforms of the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, New Delhi for issuing any unwarranted, irresponsible and unprofessional statements/press releases from abroad”.
They also said they were in “constant touch” with the MEA to “address the current difﬁcult situation wherein most of our former Embassy colleagues have received asylum and left India, therefore, we are facing shortage of diplomatic and ofﬁcial staff”.
In May, The Wire reported that the Taliban regime had issued a directive seeking the removal of the current Afghan ambassador to India, appointed by the previous Islamic Republic, and replacing them with another diplomat in the role of Charge D’Affaires.
The attempt proved unsuccessful, as the diplomat appointed by the Taliban was prevented from assuming the position by other colleagues at that time. Nevertheless, Ambassador Farid Mamundzay had claimed to The Wire that the official silence from the Ministry of External Affairs suggested that New Delhi would prefer a change in the leadership at the embassy, to one which was more aligned with the Taliban government.
It would have also been a bit more difficult publicly to recognise Qadir Shah’s role since he had moved on the basis of an appointment letter from Kabul.
India, in line with the international community, does not acknowledge the Taliban regime. However, in June 2022, India deployed a technical team comprising diplomats and security personnel to Kabul. This move signified India’s re-entry into the Afghan capital, following the complete evacuation of the embassy in the aftermath of the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul in August 2021. The technical team operates as the de-facto embassy of India in Kabul.
It marked the public change in India’s attitude towards the Taliban, with New Delhi reaching out to the regime.
The Afghan diplomats in the embassy had been receiving a frosty reception from the Indian government, in contrast to the Consul Generals who met frequently with senior MEA officials to discuss issues related to Afghans in India.
The consul generals from the two consulates in Mumbai and Hyderabad had participated in meetings chaired by the Taliban foreign minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi.
However, it is also claimed that the previous Republic-appointed Afghan embassy diplomats were also in touch with the Taliban from time to time.
Official sources highlighted that the two Consulate Generals were both appointed by the previous government, just like those in the Afghan embassy, and described this change as an internal matter between the Afghan diplomats. They also noted that one of the two Consular Generals was a senior woman diplomat, which was notable especially when the Taliban government continues to restrict the access to education and employment to women.