Afghanistan embassy in India to shut following layoffs on fund crunch

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After financially struggling for two years, the embassy in India of the previous Afghanistan government is finally shutting down, a move that could pave the way for Taliban diplomats to take over.

Ambassador Farid Mamundzay, a holdover from the previous US-backed Afghan government, moved to London several months ago and hasn’t returned, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because they aren’t authorized to talk to the media. The embassy is expected to close this month due to a lack of funds, they said.

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India’s Ministry of External Affairs is seeking to verify the authenticity of a letter it received regarding the embassy’s closing in the absence of the ambassador and reports of infighting among embassy workers. Mamundzay didn’t respond to messages sent to his mobile phone.

The embassy sacked 17 employees out of a total of 22, and a dozen of them, all Indian nationals, have been protesting in front of it since Monday demanding back pay, according to the people. Only two diplomats have remained and are planning to depart the country soon to seek asylum elsewhere, the people said.

While a handful of countries including China, Pakistan and Russia have accepted Taliban diplomats in their countries, they don’t formally recognize the government, which has been condemned internationally for human rights violations. China was the first nation to present diplomatic credentials to the Taliban this month.

For quite some time, the Taliban administration in Kabul has pushed through back-channels to depose Mamundzay and seize control of the embassy. The efforts have been rebuffed by India, which does not recognize the Taliban and sees them as a group with strong historical ties to its arch-rival Pakistan.

Still, India is looking for ways to engage with the Taliban as it wants to protect its investments in Afghanistan’s infrastructure and maintain influence there. The South Asian country reopened its embassy in Kabul last year to coordinate and facilitate humanitarian aid, such as food and medical supplies, but its consular services, including visas for Afghan nationals, have largely remained closed.

The Afghan embassy cannot be shut forever, and Taliban diplomats will finally take control of it, one of the people said.

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