Uncertainty looms for Afghan diplomats in overseas missions appointed before Taliban regime

Afghan ambassador to India Farid Mamundzay at the Afghan embassy in New Delhi. PHOTO: AFGHAN EMBASSY

NEW DELHI - At the Afghan embassy in New Delhi, diplomats routinely interact with the Indian government on issues surrounding Indian visas for Afghan nationals and to coordinate humanitarian aid from India to Afghanistan.

But the embassy, like many Afghan diplomatic missions, does not recognise the Taliban government.

Photographs of former President Ashraf Ghani, who fled the country amid the Taliban takeover over a year ago, still hang in the embassy building.

"The Taliban has disappointed many. There is no inclusive government. The Taliban has not responded to all needs of Afghanistan," said Mr Farid Mamundzay, the Afghan ambassador to India during Mr Ghani's government, in an interview with select journalists.

"We are facing multiple risks (in Afghanistan). There is a growing humanitarian crisis and our banking and financial systems are crippled... But the Taliban is our new reality."

For diplomats appointed by the previous government in Afghan missions around the world, uncertainties have remained since the Taliban took control of the country on Aug 15, 2021, amid the departure of US troops.

The Taliban has vowed to appoint diplomats in missions around the world, but they have been disadvantaged by a lack of international acceptance and finances.

Kabul does not fund many of the existing missions. In the US, the Afghan Embassy and two consulates shut down in March this year because of financial constraints.

About 50 Afghan missions are still open around the world, while 10 have closed, said Mr Mamundzay.

The US State Department has reportedly taken over the preservation and maintenance of the Afghan embassy in Washington and the consulates in New York and Los Angeles.

While no country has officially recognised the Taliban, Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran and Turkmenistan have accredited Taliban-appointed diplomats in recent months.

AFP has reported that Afghan missions are facing increasing pressure from Kabul to accept loyalist replacements. Taliban representatives have also travelled for talks overseas, bypassing local missions.

In Rome, Italian police had to intervene after a scuffle broke out between the Afghan ambassador and a pro-Taliban former diplomat who claimed he had been given the top job.

In India, the government has allowed the embassy in New Delhi and consulates in Mumbai and Hyderabad to continue working. They issue marriage and divorce certificates, as well as birth and death certificates to Afghan citizens.

"Our revenue is coming from consular services like extension of passport, education documents. India was a medium revenue generating mission," said Mr Mamundzay.

Some diplomats have left the New Delhi mission, taking political refugee in Australia and Canada.

Mr Mamundzay said they were keeping the mission going to help the Afghan people, who number 25,000 in India.

"In India, we have the luxury of owning properties and houses," he said. This removes the pressure of housing costs for the missions' staff.

"Where we don't own property and houses, missions have shut down."

A key issue has been to get Indian visas for 2,500 Afghan students who were unable to return as they were in Afghanistan during the Taliban takeover of power.

Out of security concerns, India scrapped existing visas and introduced Emergency e-visas, given in the past year to only around 300 Afghans, mostly Hindus and Sikhs.

New Delhi, which had close links with the previous governments, has reopened its embassy in Kabul and has established lines of communication with the Taliban, but there remains a trust deficit.

External affairs minister S. Jaishankar recently asked Afghan students to wait for a "level of trust and efficiency" to return before the issuance of visas can be resumed.

Some diplomats have left the New Delhi mission, taking political refuge in Australia and Canada.

But the embassy continues its work, issuing marriage and divorce certificates as well as birth and death certificates to Afghan citizens. Mr Mamundzay said they were keeping the mission going to help the Afghan people, who number 25,000 in India.

"In India, we have the luxury of owning properties and houses," he said. This removes the pressure of housing costs for the missions' staff.

"Where we don't own property and houses, missions have shut down."

A key issue has been to get Indian visas for 2,500 Afghan students who were unable to return as they were in Afghanistan during the Taliban takeover of power.

Out of security concerns, India scrapped existing visas and introduced emergency e-visas, given in the past year to only around 300 Afghans, mostly Hindus and Sikhs.

New Delhi, which had close links with the previous governments, has reopened its embassy in Kabul and has established lines of communication with the Taliban, but there remains a trust deficit.

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar recently asked Afghan students to wait for a "level of trust and efficiency" to return before the issuance of visas can be resumed.

Correction note: An earlier version of this article described Mr Ashraf Ghani as a former Prime Minister. This has been corrected. We are sorry for the error.

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