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India evacuates staff from Kandahar consulate over security concerns

Security situation in Afghanistan deteriorates (Photo: IANS)

With the Taliban gaining control of newer areas and posing bigger risks to the security environment in Afghanistan, India has flown nearly 50 diplomats and security personnel from its consulate in Kandahar, Afghanistan, near the Pakistan border.

According to reports, a special aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) brought back Indian officials along with members of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police.

In a statement on Sunday, the Ministry of External Affairs said: "India is closely monitoring the evolving security situation in Afghanistan. The safety and security of our personnel is paramount. The Consulate General of India in Kandahar has not been closed. However, due to the intense fighting near Kandahar city, India based personnel have been brought back for the time being."

MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said: "I want to emphasize that this is a purely temporary measure until the situation stabilizes. The Consulate continues to operate through our local staff members". He added: "arrangements are being made to ensure continued delivery of visa and consular services through our Embassy in Kabul".

Earlier this week, a number of countries including Turkey and Russia closed their consulates in Mazar-e-Sharif. Many others including Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Pakistan reduced activities.

Last week, the US had quickly and quietly vacated the Bagram base after nearly 20 years. It is currently mulling over the question whether it should close down its Kabul embassy also.

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India has been monitoring the situation in the war-torn country for the past few days as the Taliban has been steadily snatching territory from the Afghan government. There were fears within India that due to the deteriorating safety situation, Indian nationals may face an added threat of kidnapping.

The MEA also said that India, being an important "partner of Afghanistan, remains committed to a peaceful, sovereign and democratic Afghanistan." Over the years India has provided nearly $3 billion development aid to the country.

Since last year India, once it became amply clear that the US will withdraw all its troops from the conflict-ridden country, India has repeatedly emphasised that it supports a national peace and reconciliation process which is Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, and Afghan-controlled.

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