NEW DELHI: The Afghan embassy in India is apparently undergoing drastic personnel changes, but not without a hint of bitterness from the outgoing staff members and an air of mystery around who their successors would be.
Afghan Ambassador Farid Mamundzay, representing a pre-Taliban arrangement, reportedly wrote to the Indian external affairs minister, saying the embassy in New Delhi will close down its premises.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) is reportedly examining the authenticity of the communication, purportedly sent from the Afghan embassy, which said it was preparing to close its premises by Sept 30.
The Wire had reported in May that the Taliban regime had sent a directive that the current Afghan ambassador to India, appointed by the previous Islamic Republic, be replaced with another diplomat as Charge d’Affaires.
New Delhi ‘examining authenticity’ of Ambassador Mamundzay’s letter
However, The Wire said on Friday that the attempt was unsuccessful, as the Taliban-appointed diplomat was not allowed to take charge by his other colleagues at that time. Even then, Ambassador Mamundzay had indicated to The Wire that the MEA’s official silence meant that it would prefer a change in the embassy.
India does not recognise the Taliban regime, but in June 2022, it stationed a technical team in Kabul made up of diplomats and security personnel. It marked India’s return to the Afghan capital after the entire embassy was evacuated following the takeover of Kabul by the Taliban in August 2021.
Since India decided to go back to Kabul, Afghan embassy diplomats have been facing financial challenges and operational difficulties as they have been unable to work with the Taliban regime, and also because the MEA has largely cold-shouldered their missives, The Wire said.
As per a copy of the letter posted on X by Afghan journalist Bilal Sarwary, Ambassador Mamundzay wrote to the Indian foreign minister that the embassy will close down its premises.
“The presence of the Afghan Diplomatic Mission in New Delhi cannot function normally without the explicit help of the Indian government. After a careful consideration and assessment of the current situation, disappointingly the Embassy finds itself in a position where this support is not forthcoming. Given these circumstances. the Embassy has concluded that it is in our mission and its staff’s best interest to bring it to a close by the end of September 2023,” it said.
The Wire said it had contacted Mr Mamundzay to authenticate the letter, but there has been no response.
The MEA has not responded officially, but official sources stated that the communication and its context are being examined for its authenticity.
“This is in the context of the ambassador being out of India for past many months, steady departure of diplomats to third countries reportedly after receiving asylum as well as reports of infighting amongst embassy personnel,” said official sources.
The letter allegedly written by Ambassador Mamundzay stated that the embassy’s “significance has been systematically diminished since the reopening of the Indian embassy in Kabul in June 2022”.
“During the same period, the mission was not afforded the diplomatic regard and friendly considerations befitting its rightful status, roles and responsibilities,” he said.
In the letter, Mr Mamundzay also asked the MEA to take custodial responsibility of the mission properties, financial accounts including the lndia Afghanistan Fund, which currently holds more than $500,000.
He also asked the MEA to issue exit permits to all diplomats whose visas have not been renewed since May 2023. Thirdly, he requested that the tricolour flag of Afghanistan remain hoisted on all the mission’s properties.
His fourth and last request was that the embassy property should not be handed over to a representative of the Taliban regime.
Published in Dawn, October 1st, 2023