Indian officials hold first talks with Taliban in Afghanistan

Bilateral ties and humanitarian aid discussed in the first such visit to Kabul since the group took control of Kabul last year.

Afghan Taliban's Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi and Taliban representative Mutiul Haq Nabi Kheel walk during a meeting with Norwegian officials
The Taliban administration's acting foreign minister, Mawlawi Amir Khan Muttaqi, centre, met the Indian foreign ministry delegation [File: NTB/Stian Lysberg Solum/via Reuters]

A team of Indian officials has met the acting foreign minister of Afghanistan to discuss bilateral ties and humanitarian aid, the Taliban said, in what was the first such visit to Kabul since the group took control of the country last year.

Poverty and hunger have rocketed in Afghanistan since the Taliban took power after the United States pulled out, and India has sent food grains and other aid.

The Taliban administration’s acting foreign minister, Mawlawi Amir Khan Muttaqi, met an Indian foreign ministry delegation led by JP Singh, a secretary in the ministry.

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

Balkhi said the minister called the visit a “good beginning in ties between the two countries”.

India has no formal diplomatic ties with the Taliban government, but its envoys have previously met Taliban representatives in Doha, the capital of Qatar, where the group has an office.

Asked if New Delhi now officially recognised the Taliban administration, Indian foreign ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi told reporters they were “reading far too much into the visit”.

The ministry earlier said in a statement the officials would oversee the delivery of humanitarian assistance and visit areas targeted by Indian-backed programmes or projects.

India has donated about 20,000 tonnes of wheat, 13 tonnes of medicines, 500,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, and items of winter clothing, with more medicine and food grains on the way, it said.

India pulled its officials out of Afghanistan last August and closed its embassy, although it is keen to retain ties with the country where its regional rival Pakistan wields considerable influence.

Bagchi declined to say when the embassy might be reopened, except to say that local staff had continued to function and ensure proper maintenance and upkeep of its premises there.

Muttaqi expressed gratitude for the Indian 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 and patients, Balkhi said.

Before the Taliban took control, India provided Afghan security forces with training and military equipment but had no troops on the ground. It was also the region’s largest provider of development aid to Afghanistan.

Source: News Agencies