India will facilitate repatriation of Afghan Hindus, Sikhs, reports External Affairs Ministry
New Delhi: India on Monday said it will "stand by" its Afghan partners, take all steps for the security of Indians and its interests in Afghanistan and facilitate the repatriation of Sikhs and Hindus who wish to leave the war-torn country, in its first reaction following the takeover of Kabul by the Taliban.
External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said the situation in Afghanistan is being monitored on a constant basis at high levels and that the suspension of commercial operations at Kabul airport has forced a "pause" in India's repatriation efforts.
Capping its month-long rapid advances, the Taliban took positions in Kabul on Sunday evening hours after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani left for an unknown destination, paving the way for the takeover of the capital as well as the country.
"The security situation in Kabul has deteriorated significantly in the last few days. It is changing rapidly even as we speak. The Government of India has been closely monitoring all developments in Afghanistan," he said.
Bagchi was replying to media queries on the situation in Afghanistan following the takeover of the country by the Taliban.
"We are in constant touch with the representatives of Afghan Sikh and Hindu communities. We will facilitate repatriation to India of those who wish to leave Afghanistan," the MEA spokesperson said.
"There are also a number of Afghans who have been our partners in the promotion of our mutual developmental, educational and people-to-people endeavours. We will stand by them," he said.
Bagchi said India is waiting for the resumption of flights to restart the repatriation process.
"Commercial operations from Kabul airport have been suspended today. This has forced a pause in our repatriation efforts. We are awaiting the resumption of flights to restart the process," he said.
"The situation in Afghanistan is being monitored on a constant basis at high levels. The Government will take all steps to ensure the safety and security of Indian nationals and our interests in Afghanistan," Bagchi added.
The MEA spokesperson also referred to periodic advisories issued by the Indian embassy in Kabul for the safety and security of Indian nationals in that country, including calling for their immediate return to India.
"We had circulated emergency contact numbers and had also been extending assistance to community members. We are aware that there are still some Indian nationals in Afghanistan who wish to return and we are in touch with them," he said.
India along with many other countries was surprised at the lightning advances made by the Taliban across Afghanistan in capturing power after the US began pulling out its troops on May 1 from the country, ahead of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
"Definitely, we did not expect Kabul to fall so soon," said an official on condition of anonymity.
India has been a key stakeholder in Afghanistan and it has invested nearly USD 3 billion in carrying out nearly 500 projects across that country.
The Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan is largely seen as a setback for India as the militant outfit has been strongly backed by Pakistan military.