New Delhi: Afghan players participating in the 44th Chess Olympiad in Chennai were seen brandishing the Taliban white flag, while officially they are playing in the international sporting event under the former tricolour flag of the erstwhile Afghanistan republic government.
The matter came to light Sunday when Ahmadullah Wasiq, director general of the National Radio and Television and acting director for intelligence and deputy head of the cultural commission of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan tweeted a photo of one of the team members posing at the venue with the Taliban’s flag.
“Players from 199 countries including Afghanistan have gathered for the games in India. Wherever the players are, the white flag of Afghanistan is displayed in an important and conspicuous place at the door,” Wasiq said in a tweet.
He also said that this “shows the good relations between the two countries (India and Afghanistan)”.
This was immediately shared widely by all Twitter handles that are pro-Taliban.
However, according to the official website of the Chess Olympiad 2022, the team from Afghanistan is playing under the former tricolour flag of Afghanistan.
“We are using both the flags. Inside the venue we are using the old flag, but outside the main venue we can use the white flag. We are players, we have nothing to do with politics,” Quraishi Obaidullah, president, Afghanistan National Chess Federation, told ThePrint from Chennai.
He added that while initially no one stopped them from posing with the Taliban flag, and it was also included in the poster outside the main venue, they found those posters removed from the venue Sunday morning when they came to play. “My team is performing well and I hope we will be able to make it to the final round. The authorities here are taking good care of the entire delegation,” Obaidullah said.
India does not recognise the Taliban interim government, or the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, officially, and hence does not allow the white flag to be used. Even the Afghanistan Embassy in New Delhi uses the old flag.
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Obaidullah also said that the Afghan team got the visa through the existing e-visa process, but they did not get it on time, which is why their team could not participate in the opening ceremony on July 28.
The e-visa system was introduced by India in August last year, after the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan.
New Delhi has been engaging with the Taliban regularly, but it has been largely restricted to offering humanitarian aid and assistance to the people of Afghanistan.
India has already sent 40,000 MT of wheat for the Afghan people apart from medicines and other essential items. New Delhi has plans to send 50,000 MT of wheat to Afghanistan.
Last month, India and the World Food Programme signed another MoU to send the final tranche of 10,000 MT of wheat as the war-torn country reels under the acute food shortage that has been compounded by the earthquake in the eastern part of Afghanistan in June.
In the same month India also reopened its embassy in Kabul, by sending a team there in order to monitor and coordinate the delivery of the aid there.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)
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