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No direct Delhi-Kabul flights anytime soon, India to carry out evacuations via Doha

Kabul airport operations resume but with few international flights. With no Air India ground staff in the Afghanistan capital, evacuees to come to Delhi via Qatar. 

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New Delhi: Despite resumption of domestic flights and some international flights from Afghanistan, direct flights between Kabul and New Delhi are unlikely to resume soon, ThePrint has learnt.

India is now planning to evacuate those Indian nationals as well as Afghan nationals who want to come to India via Qatar, sources told ThePrint. This is because India has no ground staff present at the Kabul International Airport who can facilitate the flights, the sources added.

Before the takeover of Kabul by the Taliban on 15 August, there were direct flights from Delhi to Kabul operated by Air India and KAM Air. The last Air India flight that was Kabul-bound and scheduled to reach on 16 August, could not land as the airport came under the control of the Taliban and was shut down temporarily.

According to sources, the Air India staff was evacuated on the same day the entire diplomatic staff, including India’s Ambassador to Afghanistan Rudrendra Tandon, left Kabul.

At the time, only two Air India staff members were in Kabul — the country manager and a security official, both of whom are now back in India, sources said.

For the Narendra Modi government, resuming flights to Kabul will depend on the ground situation and what policy it will ultimately follow in dealing with the Taliban.

At this point, sources said, India is not encouraging travel to and from Kabul, and the focus is on evacuation.

At the moment, despite the Kabul International Airport functioning again, international flights, except for Qatar Airways, have not yet resumed.

On Monday, commercial flights with Pakistan also resumed; a flight from Islamabad reached Kabul with a few passengers.

Most of the flights landing in Kabul at the moment are chartered flights, carrying aid workers and officials. More commercial international flights are expected to resume October onwards.


Also read: Iran’s foreign minister to visit India as new Taliban govt begins to settle in Afghanistan


India begins issuing e-visas

India currently does not have an official number of how many Indian nationals are still in Afghanistan, the sources said.

According to them, there are as many as 100 Indian nationals still in Afghanistan, many of whom have settled there and do not want to leave. Others are laying low while some could come back once the situation settles down.

So far, about 20 Indians have informed the government they wish to come back. However, there are many Afghan nationals who are keen to come to India, including those who had worked with the previous Hamid Karzai and Ashraf Ghani governments.

Many of these people have also been granted the new e-visa, and are likely to reach India after being evacuated to Doha, Qatar.

India urges Taliban to ensure safe passage

On Saturday, the word ‘Taliban’ featured for the first time in an official joint statement that India issued along with Australia following their debut 2+2 inaugural talks held in New Delhi. The talks were held between the foreign and defence ministers of both nations.

“Ministers also expressed deep concern about the situation in Afghanistan. Ministers called for the Taliban to guarantee safe passage for foreign nationals and Afghans wanting to leave the country,” the joint statement said.

(Edited by Manasa Mohan)


Also read: Why Russia, US officials are rushing to Delhi, after keeping India away from Afghan talks


 

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