As situation deteriorates in Afghanistan, India evacuates diplomats
New Delhi, July 11: With the Taliban fighters seizing key areas around Kandahar, India has evacuated several of its diplomats. The evacuation took place on Saturday, just a few days after India had said that it had no plans to close its mission in Kabul and consulate in Kandahar.
The Indian consulate in Kandahar has been temporarily closed. Government sources say because of deteriorating security situation, as a temporary measure, India has closed down Kandahar Consulate and brought back 50 diplomats and security personnel.
Last week India said that it was closely monitoring the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan and its implications on the safety and security of Indian nationals in the conflict-ridden country.
"Our response will be calibrated accordingly," Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said at a media briefing. He was replying to a volley of questions on the situation in Afghanistan and whether India was looking at shutting down its consulate in Kandahar in view of the Taliban making inroads in the region.
Bagchi said the evolving situation in Afghanistan figured in talks External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had with Iranian leaders in Tehran and both sides expressed concerns over the deteriorating security in that country.
Jaishankar, during a stopover at Tehran on Wednesday on his way to Russia, called on Iranian President-elect Ayatollah Sayyid Ebrahim Raisi and held a meeting with Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.
"The two sides exchanged views on regional and global issues of mutual interest. They also discussed the evolving situation in Afghanistan and expressed concerns over the deteriorating security there," Bagchi said.
He said both sides also discussed joint connectivity initiatives in the region, including the I nternational North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) and Chabahar Port.
The external affairs minister reiterated India's interests in the region and support for efforts to maintain peace, security and stability, Bagchi said.
Asked about the efforts to save the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, he said India has always maintained that issues that have arisen should be resolved peacefully through constructive diplomacy and dialogue among all parties.
To a question on whether India was considering closing its consulate in Kandahar, the spokesperson referred to a statement issued by the Indian embassy in Kabul this week.
"You would have seen the clarification issued by our embassy in Kabul earlier this week, that our embassy in Kabul and consulates in Kandahar and Mazar-e-Sharif are functional," the spokesperson said.
"We are, however, carefully monitoring the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan and its implications on the safety and security of Indian nationals in Afghanistan," Bagchi said.
On Tuesday, the embassy described as "incorrect" reports of closure of its embassy and consulates in Afghanistan in view of the deteriorating security situation.
Afghanistan witnessed a series of terror attacks in the last few weeks as the US looked to complete the withdrawal of its forces from Afghanistan by September 11, ending nearly two decades of its military presence in the war-ravaged country.
There were reports that at least two foreign missions in Mazar-e-Sharif, the capital of northern Balkh province, have closed their operation in view of escalating violence.
Amid growing concerns in India over the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, Afghan Ambassador Farid Mamundzay on Tuesday briefed Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla on the situation in Afghanistan.
The Indian embassy has asked all Indians visiting, staying and working in Afghanistan to exercise utmost caution with regard to their security and avoid all types of non-essential travel in view of rising incidents of violence in various parts of the country.
In an advisory, the embassy said the security situation in Afghanistan remains "dangerous" and that terror groups have carried out a series of complex attacks including targeting civilians, adding Indian nationals additionally face a "serious threat" of kidnapping.
India has been a major stakeholder in the peace and stability of Afghanistan.
It has already invested nearly USD three billions in aid and reconstruction activities in the country.
India has been supporting a national peace and reconciliation process which is Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled.
In March, Afghan foreign minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar visited India during which Jaishankar conveyed to him India's long-term commitment towards a peaceful, sovereign and stable Afghanistan.
(With PTI inputs)