Indian planes ferry arms to Afghanistan

New Delhi says it has 'temporarily' brought back officials from its consulate in Kandahar


Khalid Mehmood July 12, 2021
PHOTO: EXPRESS

ISLAMABAD:

India on Sunday said it has “temporarily” brought back officials from its consulate in Kandahar, a major city in southern Afghanistan, as Taliban fighters continue to gain control amid the withdrawal of international forces.

However, sources said New Delhi is also delivering ammunition to the beleaguered Kabul administration and has recently sent two cargo planes to Kabul and Kandahar, full of artillery shells. The same planes were used to evacuate Indian officials from the two cities.

"Due to the intense fighting near Kandahar city, India-based personnel have been brought back for the time being," India's foreign ministry chief spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said in a statement.

"India is closely monitoring the evolving security situation in Afghanistan," Bagchi said, adding that India's consulate in Kandahar was being run by local staff temporarily.

Taliban officials said on Friday the group had taken control of 85% of Afghanistan's territory, as the United States and others withdrew the bulk of their troops after 20 years of fighting. Afghan government officials dismissed the assertion as a propaganda campaign.

India's foreign minister on Friday called for a reduction of violence, saying the situation in the war-torn nation has a direct bearing on regional security. However, on Saturday an Indian Air Force (IAF) C-17 aircraft arrived at Kandahar Airfield at 11am to deliver 40 tons of 122mm artillery shells.

The Afghan Taliban in a video that went viral on social media claimed that they have captured the Indian consulate in Kandahar.

Tolo News in June said the outreach by India was being led by its security officials and had been limited to groups or leaders perceived as "nationalists" or outside the influence of Pakistan and Iran.

The report, quoted by the Afghan media outlet and originally from an Indian publication, stated that communication had been underway for some months and continues to be "exploratory in nature".

Among the leaders contacted was the deputy leader of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Baradar. The report added that though messages have been exchanged, there is no confirmation of a meeting.

Another IAF C-17 aircraft arrived at Kabul Airfield at about 5pm on Sunday to dispatch another 40 tons of 122mm artillery shells consignment. These aircraft, which had departed from Jaipur and Chandigarh, were also used to evacuate Indian officials.

Trucks loaded with Indian weapons were also seen on the roads of Kabul.

According to Afghanistan's Tolo News, India has also opened channels of communication with the leadership of the Taliban, marking “a significant shift” in New Delhi's stance of not engaging with the group.

Tolo News in June said the outreach by India was being led by its security officials and had been limited to groups or leaders perceived as "nationalists" or outside the influence of Pakistan and Iran.

The report, quoted by the Afghan media outlet and originally from an Indian publication, stated that communication had been underway for some months and continues to be "exploratory in nature".

Among the leaders contacted was the deputy leader of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Baradar. The report added that though messages have been exchanged, there is no confirmation of a meeting.

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