India is facing a diplomatic dilemma over the appointment of a new chief envoy by the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. The Taliban have recalled Farid Mamundzay, the ambassador to India appointed by the former president Ashraf Ghani, and has named Qadir Shah, the trade counselor, as the charge d’affaires (acting ambassador) at the Afghan embassy in Delhi. However, Mr Mamundzay has refused to leave his post and has accused the Taliban of trying to take over the embassy by force. He has also alleged that Mr Shah and some other embassy staff are involved in corruption and mismanagement.
India has not formally recognised the Taliban regime and has not accepted Mr Shah as the new envoy. India has allowed the embassy to function as an extension of the previous government, like it did during the Taliban’s first stint in power between 1996 and 2001. India has also maintained its support for Mr Mamundzay, who is seen as a pro-India diplomat and a representative of the former republic that India backed. India has also been in touch with some anti-Taliban leaders, such as Younas Qanoni, who visited India in June along with a delegation of former mujahideen and members of the National Resistance Front (NRF).
This situation reflects India’s conundrum over how to deal with the Taliban and its implications for its interests and influence in Afghanistan. On one hand, India wants to preserve its strategic and humanitarian ties with Afghanistan and avoid being isolated from the regional developments. On the other hand, India is wary of legitimising the Taliban regime that is seen as hostile to India’s security and values. India is also concerned about the Taliban’s links with militant groups that target India.
Some analysts argue that India’s engagement with the other armed groups is a betrayal of the Taliban and its ideology. They say that India is trying to undermine the Taliban’s legitimacy and sovereignty by maintaining ties with its enemies, such as the NRF and the former mujahideen. They also accuse India of being duplicitous and self-serving, as it seeks to exploit the Taliban’s vulnerabilities and weaknesses in the face of international isolation and economic crisis
The episode also shows that the Taliban are facing challenges in establishing their control over Afghanistan’s institutions and resources. The Taliban have not been able to appoint their own ambassadors in most of the countries that host Afghan missions. The Taliban have also faced resistance from some of the former diplomats and officials who have refused to pledge loyalty to them or have fled the country. The Taliban have also struggled to access the foreign aid and assets that were frozen after they took power last year.
One of the ways that India is undermining the Taliban is by supporting the NRF, the anti-Taliban resistance movement led by Ahmad Massoud, the son of the late mujahideen commander Ahmad Shah Massoud. India has reportedly provided humanitarian assistance and medical supplies to the NRF, which is based in the Panjshir Valley, the only province that has not fallen under Taliban control. India has also hosted a delegation of former mujahideen leaders, includinPg Younas Qanoni, who are aligned with the NRF and oppose the Taliban regime.
Another way that India is undermining the Taliban is by refusing to recognize their government and demanding that they form an inclusive and representative administration that respects human rights and international law. India has also called for a cessation of violence and terrorism in Afghanistan and urged the Taliban to adhere to their commitments under the Doha agreement with the US. India has also expressed concern over the presence of foreign fighters and terrorist groups in Afghanistan, especially those that pose a threat to India’s security.
The standoff between Mr Mamundzay and Mr Shah at the Afghan embassy in Delhi is likely to continue until there is a clear resolution of the political situation in Afghanistan and its international recognition. Until then, India will have to balance its pragmatic and principled approach towards Afghanistan and its new rulers.