Afghan embassy in India forced to shut as New Delhi ‘draws closer to recognising Taliban regime’

A cyclist pedals past the Afghan Embassy in New Delhi, India (Associated Press)
A cyclist pedals past the Afghan Embassy in New Delhi, India (Associated Press)

Afghanistan’s embassy in Delhi has announced it will shut down its operations as officials said they felt let down by a “lack of support” from the Indian government.

Like many Afghan diplomatic missions around the world the embassy in Delhi is still occupied by officials loyal to the former Western-backed Afghan government, which was forcefully ousted by the Taliban in 2021.

India has not recognised the Taliban government and says it will follow the UN’s lead in deciding whether or not to do so, but it has also refused to back the incumbent Afghan ambassador in Delhi and has frozen access to some of the embassy’s accounts. It has said that a months-long power struggle between the ambassador and a would-be Taliban appointee is an internal matter for Afghanistan to settle.

Now the embassy has issued a statement saying it will be forced to close all but its emergency services, saying it can no longer meet the requirements of Afghan citizens in India “due to the lack of diplomatic support in India and the absence of a legitimate functioning government in Kabul”.

“The embassy has experienced a notable absence of crucial support from the host government, which has hindered our ability to carry out our duties effectively,” embassy officials said in a statement this weekend.

A source at the embassy said India’s refusal to extend the visas of Afghanistan’s current diplomats was a factor in the decision to shut down, accusing the Narendra Modi government of a growing “proximity” with the Taliban regime and claiming India was drawing closer to formally recognising the Islamist militants’ administration in Kabul.

“The Chinese ambassador presented his credentials [to the Taliban] last month, India doesn’t want to be left behind in this race,” they said on condition of anonymity.

India has not yet responded publicly to the Afghan embassy’s statement on its closure. The Independent has reached out to the Indian foreign ministry for comment.

This weekend’s decision came after a week of media speculation over a leaked letter from Afghanistan’s ambassador Farid Mamundzay to India’s foreign ministry. In the letter, dated 25 September and seen by The Independent, Mr Mamundzay complained that his mission had “not [been] afforded the diplomatic regard and friendly considerations befitting its rightful status, roles and responsibilities”.

“The lack of support for extending the visas of the diplomats has been perceived as a pressure tactic to create discord at the mission and provide access to usurpers,” said Mr Mamundzay’s letter, referring to the Taliban.

It urged the Indian authorities to seize the embassy’s assets, including vehicles, computers, official stamps and documents, as well as £410,000 (Rs 40m) in the mission’s bank account, so that they do not fall into Taliban hands and “with the understanding that they will be entrusted to a legitimate government duly elected by the Afghan people in the future”.

In an interview with The Independent in May this year, Mr Mamundzay had called on India to take a stand on the issue and thereby send a message that it stands up for democratic ideals.

“I hope the entire region, particularly India, will act in the spirit of enlightened self-interest on issues related to Afghanistan,” he had said in New Delhi.

“Afghans will judge the policies of their friends based on the choices they make, and would certainly remember those who stood by them in difficult times,” he had said.