India sends team to assist after Afghanistan earthquake despite strained relations with Taliban

·3-min read

India on Thursday said it has sent a "technical team" to Kabul to coordinate the delivery of humanitarian aid after a powerful earthquake killed over 1000 people in eastern Afghanistan.

A 6.1 magnitude earthquake rocked the country's Paktika and Khost provinces on Wednesday killing at least 1,150 people and wounding 1,600 more. Nearly 3,000 homes turned to rubles in the mountainous region of Afghanistan in the aftermath of the severe earthquake.

According to the US geological survey, the earthquake struck about 44km from the city of Khost in at a depth of 51km.

New Delhi said the team has been deployed to its embassy in Kabul, which has been vacant since the Taliban wrested power from the Afghan government on 15 August 2021.

The team was sent to “closely monitor and coordinate the efforts of various stakeholders for the effective delivery of humanitarian assistance” as part of a “continuation of our engagement with the Afghan people", India's ministry of external affairs said.

While India maintains that it will follow the lead of the United Nations in deciding whether to recognise the Taliban government, the move to deploy a team at the embassy is seen as an effort to reopen a diplomatic channel with Kabul.

As a part of humanitarian relief, India has sent 27 tons of emergency assistance in two flights, which includes essential items such as family ridge tents, sleeping bags, blankets and sleeping mats. The aid will be handed over to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and Afghan Red Crescent Society in Kabul, the ministry said.

The Taliban had appealed for international aid and help from other countries.

“When such a big incident happens in any country, there is a need for help from other countries. It is very difficult for us to be able to respond to this huge incident,” said Sharafuddin Muslim, Taliban’s deputy minister of state for disaster management.

Read more:

Search for survivors ends in Afghanistan after earthquake kills over 1,000 people

‘Entire villages laid to waste’: Rescuers desperately try to reach survivors of Afghanistan’s deadly quake

India's foreign minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar tweeted: "India, a true first responder."

The Taliban welcomed New Delhi’s decision to deploy diplomats to Kabul and their humanitarian assistance. “The return of Indian diplomats to Afghanistan and reopening of embassy demonstrates that security is established in the country, and all political and diplomatic rights are respected,” Taliban spokesperson Abdul Qahar Balkhi said in a statement.

Earlier this month, a delegation from India met with Taliban officials in Kabul to discuss bilateral ties and humanitarian aid, for the first time since the Islamist group tookover the country.

Since the fundamentalists have come to power, the country of 38 million people has plunged deep into poverty with over a million children at risk of severe malnutrition due to an economic collapse.

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