India on Thursday said it does not have any immediate plan to shut down its embassy in Kabul and pressed for a comprehensive ceasefire to end the violent conflict in Afghanistan, noting that it is in touch with all the key stakeholders and regional players over the situation there.
The comments by Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson, Arindam Bagchi, came on a day India joined a regional meet in the Qatari capital Doha that is aimed at exploring ways to end violence in Afghanistan.
“It (situation in Afghanistan) is of concern. It is a rapidly evolving situation. We continue to hope that there will be an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire. We are supporting all peace initiatives in Afghanistan,” Mr Bagchi said at a media briefing.
To a specific question on whether India is holding talks with the Taliban, Mr Bagchi said “we are in touch with various stakeholders.”
The MEA spokesperson said notwithstanding the deteriorating security situation, India is not going to close its embassy in Kabul.
“There were some stories that we are shutting it down. It is not correct. It is speculation. We are monitoring the situation very carefully but there are no plans as such of the nature that you mentioned,” he said when asked whether India was planning to shut down its mission in Kabul in view of a rapidly worsening security situation in the war-torn country.
People familiar with the developments relating to Afghanistan said contingency plans are being readied to evacuate Indians from the country if the situation deteriorates further.
“We are closely monitoring developments in this regard. We are concerned about the deteriorating security situation. Our mission issued an advisory for Indian nationals earlier this week advising them to return by commercial flights,” he said when asked about the safety of Indians living in that country.
To a question on circulation of a video on social media purportedly showing the Taliban seizing a military helicopter in Kunduz airport, believed to be donated by India to Afghanistan, Mr Bagchi said it is an internal matter of that country.
“We are seeing different reports. The ground situation is difficult to understand what is the actual accurate report. There was a talk about a helicopter which we had given. This is not something for us to comment on…All I can say is that this is an internal matter of Afghanistan and I would not like to comment on that aspect,” he said
“Last year our mission in Kabul facilitated the return of more than 383 members of the Hindu and Sikh community from Afghanistan to India and the mission continues to remain in touch with Afghan Hindu and Sikh community members and we will ensure the provision of all necessary assistance to them,” he said.
Asked about reports of Pakistan continuing to support the Taliban and the influx of hundreds of terrorists into Afghanistan from that country, he said, “the world know’s what kind of role is being played and the kind of concerns they (the countries) have over what the terror elements from there have done in Afghanistan.”
“The whole world knows it; We do not have to tell. The issue figures in our conversations,” Mr Bagchi added.
As the Taliban continues its offensive to capture new territories in Afghanistan, Pakistan has been under increasing international criticism over continuing to provide logistical and tactical support to the terrorist outfit.
He said India’s primary concern is to ensure peace and stability in Afghanistan.
“We hope that all stakeholders come and find a peace process. Our conversation with our partners is directed at that. We have been saying that for the peace in Afghanistan, we need to ensure that the external malign influences do not happen,” he said, in an oblique reference to Pakistan.
“We clearly are aware of how it is happening and we will certainly hope that all parties including the regional countries understand this and work towards a situation where Afghans can have a process that is owned by them, controlled by them and led by them as we have been saying,” he said.
The Taliban has been making rapid advances across Afghanistan by resorting to widespread violence since the United States began withdrawing its troops from the country on May 1.
The US has already pulled back the majority of its forces and is looking to complete the drawdown by August 31.
India has been engaged with a number of stakeholders and leading powers on the latest developments in Afghanistan.
India has been supporting a national peace and reconciliation process that is Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled.
It has also been calling upon all sections of the political spectrum in Afghanistan to work together to meet the aspirations of all people in the country, including those from the minority communities, for a prosperous and safe future.