NEW DELHI (AP) — Indian officials held talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan for the first time Thursday since the group took control of the country last year to discuss the distribution of humanitarian assistance, the External Affairs Ministry said.
India has no formal diplomatic ties with the Taliban government, but its envoys have met previously with Taliban representatives in Doha, the capital of Qatar, where they have an office.
The visit by Indian officials to Kabul, Afghanistan's capital, on Thursday was mainly to oversee the delivery of aid, ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi told reporters.
India has said it will follow the lead of the United Nations in deciding whether to recognize the Talilban government.
Acting Afghan Foreign Minister Mawlawi Amir Khan Muttaqi received the Indian delegation in Kabul and called it "a good beginning in ties between the two countries.”
The meeting focused on bilateral relations, trade and aid, Muttaqi's spokesperson, Abdul Qahar Balkhi, said in a tweet. The Indian delegation was led by J.P. Singh, a secretary in the External Affairs Ministry.
Muttaqi expressed gratitude for Indian humanitarian and medical assistance to Afghanistan, stressing the importance of the resumption of projects by India, its diplomatic presence in Afghanistan and the provision of consular services to Afghans, particularly to Afghan students and medical patients, Balkhi said.
The Indian officials said they are seeking positive ties with Afghanistan as in the past, the Afghan spokesperson said.
India sent 20,000 tons of wheat, 13 tons of medicines, 500,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines and winter clothing to Afghanistan to meet shortages there, Bagchi said.
The aid was handed over to the Indira Gandhi Children's Hospital in Kabul and U.N. agencies, including the World Health Organization and the World Food Program, he said in a statement, adding that more medicines and food were on the way.
Before the Taliban took control, India provided Afghan security forces with training and military equipment but had no troops on the ground. It was also the region’s largest provider of development aid to Afghanistan.
It has no diplomatic presence left in Kabul after it evacuated its staff ahead of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in August last year.
Associated Press writer Rahim Faiez in Islamabad, Pakistan, contributed to this report.