Indians fly home as government closes embassy in Kabul for now

On Aug.16 another C17 flight had brought back about 40 diplomats and other personnel, after the others were turned back from driving to the airport by Taliban guards in Kabul city.

140 Indians including the last of the Indian embassy staff, ITBP personnel and four media persons took off from Kabul airport on board a special military flight this morning. The flight, a C17 Globemaster, was one of two military aircraft operated by the IAF for the purpose of bringing home all Indian personnel from the embassy.

On August 16 another C17 flight had brought back about 40 diplomats and other personnel, after the others were turned back from driving to the airport by Taliban guards in Kabul city. A tense day followed, as Indian diplomats, led by Ambassador Rudrendra Tandon coordinated with the new militia now in control of the capital and other diplomatic missions, to ensure the convoy of 140 reached Kabul airport on Aug. 16 night. After spending the night at the airport, all Indians were boarded at around 6 a.m. According to flight tracker data, both flights took a long and circuitous route avoiding Pakistani airspace and minimizing travel through Afghan airspace, to fly over Iran and returned to India over the Arabian sea, and back over Gujarat.

The return of all diplomatic staff means that the Indian diplomatic mission in Afghanistan is atleast, temporarily, closed. Prior to this India had closed missions in Jalalabad and Herat last year and consulates in Kandahar and Mazar e Sharif in the last month. The government will now have to decide on the nature of relations with the Taliban government in Kabul, once it is formally announced.

The government will also have to decide how to help any Indians still stranded in Kabul as no commercial aircraft were allowed to land after chaos on the tarmac on Aug. 16 that left at least 5 Afghans dead. In addition Afghans wanting to flee to India, who were able to receive visas in the last few days would also have to be considered. On Monday the MEA said it would facilitate “Hindus and Sikhs” and would “stand by” India’s Afghan partners who worked on projects with India. The MEA has set up helplines at:

Phone number: +919717785379

Email: [email protected]

“Understand the anxiety of those seeking to return to India. Airport operations are the main challenge. Discussions on with partners in this regard,” said External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar in a tweet.

Talks on the government to be installed are still underway, as Taliban Deputy Leader Baradar, is expected to meet with members of the “coordinating council” representing the previous Afghan leadership of former President Hamid Karzai and the Peace talks Chairman Abdullah Abdullah and Hizb e Islami chief Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. On Aug. 16, the council leaders issued statements indicating they were “in touch with the Islamic Taliban movement” and had “positive discussions”. Diplomatic sources said further talks could also take place in Doha, where issues like guaranteeing rights for all Afghans, including women and minorities, and some sort of political representation for Afghans were at the top of the agenda.

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