Photo: Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan - New Delhi

Afghanistan Embassy in India Closes Operation, Citing New Delhi’s Lack of Support

The Afghanistan Embassy in New Delhi closed its operations yesterday, October 1. A statement released on Saturday, September 30, cited a lack of diplomatic support from the Indian government, the mission’s inability to serve the country’s interest in the absence of a legitimate government in Afghanistan, and a shortage of personnel and resources as factors that prompted the closure.

The embassy says India refused to renew their diplomats’ visas and withheld cooperation in critical areas that impeded their ability to offer services.

India will take control of the embassy in accordance with Article 45 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (1961), the statement said.

It is not clear yet if the Indian government would agree to the Taliban authorities in Kabul sending their diplomats to relaunch the diplomatic mission. Thus far, the Afghanistan Embassy in Washington remains the only diplomatic mission closed by the host country but not handed over to the Taliban.

The statement released by the embassy hints at possible pressure from the Taliban authorities to take control of the diplomatic missions, acknowledging that some in their ranks, particularly in Afghanistan’s consulates “might be receiving instructions from Kabul.” It says that actions by these consulates—Afghanistan maintains consular services in Mumbai and Hyderabad—serve the interests of an “illegitimate regime.”

In what appeared to be a response to the decision from diplomats in New Delhi, Zakia Wardak, the Consular General in Mumbai, issued her own statement assuring that the consular operations in Mumbai and Hyderabad will continue to provide services, particularly strengthening trade relations, a bilateral undertaking that could prove challenging without cooperation from the Taliban authorities.

Previously, in late April, a diplomat named Qadir Shah, who was working as a trade councilor at the Afghanistan Embassy in New Delhi, asked India’s Ministry of External Affairs, claiming that he was appointed by the Taliban as charge d’affaires at the embassy.

Later, Farid Mamundzay, the Afghanistan Ambassador in New Delhi, rejected the claim and accused the Taliban of spreading misinformation and running a “baseless” campaign to take over the embassy.

When the Taliban took over Afghanistan more than two years ago, most of the country’s senior diplomats refused to vacate their posts or work with the new regime in Kabul. Since then, however, several embassies have been occupied by the Taliban around the world.

In some cases, the Taliban reached agreements with sympathizing governments such as Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Russia, Qatar, the UAE, and Iran. In other places such as China, the Taliban filled positions after they were vacated by the republic diplomats, understandably with the blessing from their hosts in Beijing. There were also instances such as in Turkey where the republican ambassador, Mohammad Amir Ramin, agreed to report to new bosses in Kabul.

After the Taliban’s return to power, India evacuated its diplomatic personnel from its embassy in Kabul. Although New Delhi, which has not recognized the Taliban government, resumed limited operations at its Kabul embassy after deploying a “technical team” in June 2022, it has not yet decided whether to send an ambassador to Afghanistan.

New Delhi’s ambition to expand its presence in Afghanistan has largely focused on aid delivery—in the form of medical supplies, food aid such as wheat, and disaster relief materials—as part of its humanitarian assistance. India has also pledged a US$25 million development aid package for Afghanistan in its 2023-24 federal budget.

Some of Afghanistan’s ambassadors from the previous government have formed a group, an association of sorts, to coordinate among themselves without reporting to Kabul. The batch is led by Zalmay Rasul, the country’s ambassador in London, who served as National Security Advisor and Foreign Minister in the previous government.

Afghanistan is not the only country whose ambassadors have continued operations on their own after their governments have been toppled. Diplomats from Myanmar, particularly at the United Nations in New York, continue to represent the government that was toppled by a military coup.

The closer of Afghanistan’s embassy in New Delhi resurfaces the question as to how long will such diplomatic missions be able to continue their operation without support from Kabul or their host governments.