Centre faces tough choice

as Taliban pick a new Ambassador for Delhi

The Taliban regime’s decision to recall Afghan Ambassador Farid Mamundzay and appoint current Trade Counsellor Qadir Shah as the chargé d’affaires (Acting Ambassador) in his place has posed a tough decision for the government on the situation in Afghanistan and its engagement with the Taliban.

While rejecting the Taliban regime’s appointment could see repercussions for India’s “technical mission” in Kabul, accepting it would be seen as handing over the embassy in Delhi to the insurgent group that took power in Kabul in 2021, but has not received recognition from any country so far.

While most countries where Afghanistan ran missions have refused to accede to the Taliban appointments, Russia, China, Pakistan, the Central Asian states and Iran have allowed the Taliban-appointed diplomats to run the missions, and even raise the Taliban or “Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan” (IEA) flag.

The flashpoint

The tussle between the two became public on Sunday, after Afghan media outlets published a letter from Afghans based in India accusing the existing Ambassador and other officials of corruption. In response, Mr. Mamundzay, who has been the Ambassador since 2020, called the allegations “one-sided, biased and untruthful”. In a statement issued on Monday, the embassy also “categorically rejected” the claims of Mr. Shah to take charge of the mission.

Diplomatic sources told The Hindu that trouble has been brewing within the embassy over the past month after the Taliban Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA)’s Human Resources Director issued a letter, recalling Mr. Mamundzay and asking him to report to the MFA in Kabul.

Another order on the same date by Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi said that Trade Counsellor Qadir Shah would “supervise affairs at the Afghanistan Embassy in Delhi, India”. When contacted, Mr. Shah said he was not affiliated to any “political party, group or movement”.

The External Affairs Ministry declined to comment on the Taliban decision, with officials suggesting that this was an “internal” matter for the embassy to resolve.