Indian External Affairs Ministry Joint Secretary JP Singh sat down with Taliban Foreign Minister Muttaqi two hours ago. The Indian delegation’s first trip to Afghanistan since the dramatic 2021 U.S. withdrawal shows India’s resolve to not only aid the struggling people of Afghanistan, but also counter Pakistan’s waning influence with the Taliban.
The Indian External Affairs Ministry described the purpose of their visit as:
”1. During the visit, the team will meet representatives of the International Organisations involved in distribution of the humanitarian assistance.
2. In addition, the team is expected to visit various places where Indian programmes / projects are being implemented.
3. It may be recalled that in response to the humanitarian needs of the Afghan people, India decided to extend humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people. In this endeavor, we have already dispatched several shipments of humanitarian assistance consisting of 20,000 MTs of wheat, 13 tons of medicines, 500,000 doses of COVID Vaccine and winter clothing. These consignments were handed over to the India Gandhi Children Hospital, Kabul and UN specialized agencies including WHO and WFP. Furthermore, India is in the process of shipping more medical assistance and foodgrains to Afghanistan.
4. In continuation with our developmental partnership with Afghan brethren, we have gifted one million doses of India-made COVAXIN to Iran to administer to Afghan refugees in Iran. We have also assisted UNICEF by supplying almost 60 million doses of polio vaccine and two tons of essential medicines.
5. India’s development and humanitarian assistance has received a wide spread appreciation across the entire spectrum of Afghan society.
6. In this connection, the Indian team will meet the senior members of the Taliban, and hold discussions on India’s humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan.
7. India has historical and civilisational ties with the Afghan people and these longstanding linkages will continue to guide our approach.”
While the official reasoning does not mention Pakistan, the increasing tensions amid border disputes between Afghanistan and Pakistan is not lost on New Delhi. The Indian government, through humanitarian and maybe even military support could create a partnership that would squeeze India’s longtime rival from both the East and West.