‘A good beginning’: Indian delegation meets Taliban for first time since it came to power

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A delegation from India has met with Taliban officials in Kabul for the first time since the Islamist group wrested power from the Afghan government in August 2021.

The country sent the delegation on Thursday to discuss bilateral ties and humanitarian aid.

Mawlawi Amir Khan Muttaqi, the acting foreign minister of the Taliban government, received the team from New Delhi, that included the Indian foreign ministry’s joint secretary JP Singh.

He called the meeting “a good beginning in ties between the two countries”.

Although Delhi does not officially recognise the Taliban government, it has kept open a diplomatic channel by supplying humanitarian aid to the poverty-stricken nation.

The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan on 15 August has led to an economic collapse, pushing the country into an abyss of poverty and hunger.

The crisis was fuelled by the US after it froze nearly $9.5bn in assets belonging to the Afghan central bank and stopped shipments of cash to prevent the Taliban from accessing money.

According to the UN, more than 97 per cent of Afghans have been affected by food shortages.

India’s visit to Kabul was mainly to oversee the delivery of aid, foreign ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi told reporters.

India has donated nearly 20,000 tonnes of wheat, 13 tonnes of medicines, 500,000 doses of Covid vaccines and other items of winter clothing, the ministry said.

While India maintains that it will follow the lead of the UN in deciding whether to recognise the Taliban government, Thursday’s visit is seen as a bid to reopen a diplomatic channel with Kabul.

India had pulled its officials from the national capital and closed its embassy last August.

“The meeting focused on India-Afghan diplomatic relations, bilateral trade and humanitarian aid,” tweeted Taliban foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Qahar Balkhi.

Following the visit, Mr Muttaqi expressed gratitude for the humanitarian and medical assistance to Afghanistan, stressing the importance of the resumption of projects by India, its diplomatic presence in Afghanistan and the provision of consular services to Afghans, particularly to Afghan students.

“Indian delegation said they sought positive relations with Afghanistan as in past (sic),” the Afghan spokesperson said.

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