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Afghan Embassy in New Delhi Says It Is Permanently Closing

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Afghan Embassy in New Delhi Says It Is Permanently Closing

It is now up to the Indian government to decide whether to keep it shut or consider alternatives, including handing it over to Taliban officials.

Afghan Embassy in New Delhi Says It Is Permanently Closing

A cyclist pedals past the Afghan Embassy in New Delhi, India, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023.

Credit: AP Photo/Altaf Qadri, File

The Afghan Embassy in New Delhi is permanently closed, it announced Friday, due to challenges from the Indian government and a lack of diplomatic support.

In a press release, it said the decision was already effective from Thursday and follows the embassy’s earlier move to cease operations starting October 1 due to the absence of a recognized government in Kabul. At the time, it had said it would continue to provide emergency consular services to Afghan nationals.

The embassy said the earlier decision was made “in the hope that the Indian government’s stance would evolve favorably for the normal continuation of the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in New Delhi.”

But in the eight weeks since, the embassy faced a difficult choice due to “constant pressure from both the Taliban and the Indian government to relinquish control.”

There was no immediate comment by India’s External Affairs Ministry.

India has not recognized the Taliban government — which seized power in Afghanistan in August 2021 — and evacuated its own staff from Kabul ahead of the United States withdrawal from Afghanistan two years ago. India no longer has a diplomatic presence there. India has said it will follow the lead of the United Nations in deciding whether to recognize the Taliban government.

The Afghan Embassy in New Delhi was run by staff appointed by the previous government of ousted Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, with permission from Indian authorities.

In its statement Friday, the mission said there are no diplomats from the Afghan Republic in India, and that those who served the embassy have safely reached third countries.

“The only individuals present in India are diplomats affiliated with the Taliban,” it said, adding that the mission has been handed over to the Indian government.

“It now rests upon the Indian government to decide the fate of the mission, whether to maintain its closure or consider alternatives, including the possibility of handing it over to Taliban ‘diplomats,'” it said.

The U.N. refugee agency says Afghans account for around one-third of the nearly 40,000 refugees it has registered in India, which doesn’t include those registered through other agencies.

The Afghan embassy said the community in India has significantly declined over the past two years, with refugees, students and others leaving the country. The number has nearly halved since August 2021, and very limited visas were issued during this period, it said.

In 2022, India sent Afghanistan relief materials, including wheat, medicine, COVID-19 vaccines and winter clothes, to help with shortages in an already war-devastated Afghan economy that was on the verge of collapse.