Afghanistan raises ‘delay’ in India’s acceptance of envoy

MEA dismisses contention that there had been any ‘delay’.

More than three months after Afghanistan announced its next Ambassador to India, New Delhi has yet to grant its “Agrément” or acceptance of the Afghan government’s nominee, officials in both capitals confirmed.

The delay, which follows the government’s decision not to accept two other names proferred earlier in the year was raised by senior officials in Kabul who met with NSA (National Security Adviser) Ajit Doval during a two-day visit to Afghanistan this week.

Sources confirmed that Afghan Foreign Minister Hanif Atmar also discussed the issue with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar during a phone call this week, after which officials say they are hopeful of a resolution to the issue in the coming days.

According to the sources, the name of Farid Mamundzay, who was a senior political advisor to the Afghan National Security Council, and was Deputy Minister of Policy and Technical Affairs at the Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG), was proposed as the next Afghan Ambassador in New Delhi in September 2020.

Afghanistan has not had a full-rank Ambassador in Delhi since September 2018, when Ambassador Shaida Abdali’s resigned unexpectedly in order to stand for elections. Since then, diplomat Tahir Qadiry assumed charge as Charge d’Affaires, but is ending his tenure this month for another foreign assignment.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) declined to reply to questions on the issue officially, and dismissed the contention that there had been any “delay”.

A number of reasons

When contacted, MEA officials aware of the protocol concerns, pointed to a number of reasons, beginning with the initial delay from the Ghani government’s side in naming a replacement for Mr. Abdali, and subsequently its preoccupation with elections, the coronavirus pandemic and the Doha peace process. However, they confirmed that since 2019, the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) had sent at least three names, beginning with senior government official Walid Tamim in July 2019, and subsequently floated the name of Kawoon Kakar, a former advisor to President Ghani. Mr. Tamim was appointed a Deputy Minister in the Finance Ministry pending his credentials from Delhi, the government had announced, but when New Delhi did not respond to either name, the MFA proposed Mr. Mamundzay.

On September 3 last, Mr. Mamundzay even tweeted that he was “honoured & humbled to have been designated as the new Afghan ambassador to India,” calling India a “generous neighbour” and a “strategic partner with strong historical, political & cultural links” to Afghanistan. However, The Hindu confirmed that New Delhi’s letter of “Agrément” has not so far been been conveyed to the Afghan side, leading to the queries put to Mr. Doval and Mr. Jaishankar.

‘Senior’ envoys sent

Sources who didn’t wish to be identified said India had always sent “senior” envoys to Afghanistan and, therefore, expected that Kabul would reciprocate. New Delhi had also requested that the Ambassador-designate have ties with all political parties in Afghanistan and took into account India’s security sensitivities in the region, the sources added.

While delays in providing ‘Agrément’ letters are not uncommon, it is extremely rare for a host country to reject the names of one, let alone more suggested names of incoming diplomats, especially when they are from a country with friendly ties, as Afghanistan and India share.

In September 2020, Pakistan’s decision to reject the name of IFS officer Jayant Khobragade, whom India had proposed as Charge d’Affaires at its High commission in Islamabad had led to a diplomatic incident, that was subsequently resolved with Pakistan accepting the name of Suresh Kumar a few months later.

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