New Delhi: Despite having no diplomatic presence or other official/formal means to oversee the fructification and execution of its assistance, Government of India has allotted Rs 200 crore to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan in the latest budgetary allocation. This is a reduction of Rs 150 crore from the Rs 350 crore that was allotted to the country in the last budget (2021-22) when it was still under the democratic rule of President Ashraf Ghani.

The Indian government is yet to recognise the Taliban-ruled government, which had forcibly taken over the administration in Afghanistan last year.

Official sources in Delhi said that the continuing of financial assistance to one of India’s “oldest friends” was decided while keeping the well-being of the ordinary Afghan citizens in mind who are facing hardships at multiple levels.

“For decades, we have invested in developing infrastructure in Afghanistan that has eased the life of the locals there. Assets like dams will continue to generate power and water fields irrespective of who is ruling Kabul or whether that person is friendly to us or not. It is under this same thought process that the continuing of financial assistance should be seen. We will continue to stand with the common Afghans,” an official sources said.

The general understanding in diplomatic circles is that if Delhi establishes formal relations with Afghanistan’s acting Prime Minister Mullah Mohammad Hasan Akhund, it will lead to a ripple effect and prompt other democratic countries to do the same. The Taliban government, despite being under pressure from its perceived guardians in Pakistan not to do so, has been making overt and covert overtures to Delhi to seek some sort of recognition.

Last month, Akhund in his first public appearance since being appointed as Prime Minister, requested international governments to officially recognise the country’s Taliban administration.

“I ask all governments, especially Muslim countries, that they should start recognition,” Akhund said in his first major public broadcast appearance since he became the PM in September.

While Afghanistan’s immediate neighbour Pakistan has been working with Akhund closely, it is not in a position to help Kabul financially because of its own precarious financial situation. The assistance from China, which works on the aid and advice of GHQ, Rawalpindi, regarding its role in Kabul, has been restricted due to lack of any historical ties and any financial benefits with the Islamic country.

Due to the lack of a formal recognition by India and other allied countries, including the United States and United Kingdom, the foreign assistance that Kabul used to get, has dried up, with the US freezing at least $9.5 billion worth of Afghan banking assets.

The Sunday Guardian’s email to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), India, seeking modalities and other details like how and where this Rs 200 crore will be spent considering that there are no diplomatic staff in and around Kabul, elicited no response till the time the story went to press.

India had evacuated its estimated 192 personnel from different places in Afghanistan on 16 and 17 August using Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft, C-17 Globemaster.

“In view of the prevailing circumstances, it has been decided that our Ambassador in Kabul and his Indian staff will move to India immediately,” the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson had tweeted at the time while announcing the evacuation and in effect shutting down India’s diplomatic mission in Afghanistan. India had closed its missions in Jalalabad and Herat in April 2020 and the consulates in Kandahar and Mazar-e-Sharif in July 2021.

On Thursday, Ministry of External Affairs official spokesperson Arindam Bagchi, during the weekly briefing, said that India was committed to providing assistance to Afghanistan, while adding that the allocation of Rs 200 crore in the Union Budget was a sign of India’s continued attachment with Afghanistan. “We have always underlined our deep friendship with the people of Afghanistan and have been working to address their concerns. This budgetary provision that has been referred to, helps us provide humanitarian assistance as and when required,” he said.

“The government is committed to extending humanitarian assistance. We have been sharing information about shipment of medicines and vaccines,” replied Bagchi to questions about the plans to send medicines and food items to Afghanistan.