India shuts last consulate in Afghanistan and evacuates citizens
India sent a military plane to northern Afghanistan on Tuesday to pull out its citizens, officials said, as fighting raged between Afghan security forces and the advancing Taliban.
The Indian government shut its consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif, the biggest city in the north, and urged its diplomats and Indian citizens to take the special flight home.
Taliban fighters have overrun six provincial capitals in recent days in the north, west and south of Afghanistan.
India, which has invested millions of dollars in development projects across Afghanistan, has now closed all its consulates, leaving only the embassy in Kabul operational, a government official said.
India's main opposition Congress party urged the government also to help evacuate Afghanistan's tiny Sikh and Hindu communities, to protect them from any attack by the Taliban.
Congress official Jaiveer Shergill estimated that there were around 750 Afghan Sikhs and Hindus in the country.
Last month, India had temporarily brought back officials from its consulate in Kandahar, a major city in southern Afghanistan, as Taliban fighters continued to gain control amid the withdrawal of international forces.
"Due to the intense fighting near Kandahar city, India-based personnel have been brought back for the time being," Arindam Bagchi, chief spokesperson at India's foreign ministry, had said in a statement.
Bagchi had said, "India is closely monitoring the evolving security situation in Afghanistan," adding that the country's consulate in Kandahar was being run by local staff temporarily.