India evacuates 170 people from Afghanistan, including ambassador

Nearly 200 personnel of Indian mission in Afghanistan evacuated in three days, alongside Indian civilians working in the country.

An Indian air force plane has evacuated more than 170 people from Kabul, including India’s ambassador to Afghanistan, a government official says, as diplomats and civilians scramble to leave the country after the Taliban took the capital.

The flight landed in the western Indian city of Jamnagar for refuelling on the way to the capital New Delhi, Jamnagar collector Sourabh Pardhi told Reuters news agency on Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters, Ambassador Rudrendra Tandon said the nearly 200 personnel of the Indian mission in Afghanistan had been evacuated within three days, alongside Indian civilians working in the country.

“You cannot imagine how great it is to be back home,” Tandon said. “We are back home safely, securely, without any accidents or harm to any of our people.”

Tandon described the situation in Afghanistan as “fluid”, adding that a small number of Indian nationals remained in the country and that authorities were attempting to bring them back.

“In view of the prevailing circumstances, it has been decided that our ambassador in Kabul and his Indian staff will move to India immediately,” Indian foreign ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi posted on Twitter.

After Taliban fighters streamed into the capital unopposed, thousands of people desperate to flee Afghanistan thronged Kabul’s airport on Monday, prompting the United States to pause evacuations.

India, which has invested millions of dollars in development projects across Afghanistan, once operated four consulates in the country, besides the embassy in Kabul.

The last operating consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif was shut down a week ago, days before the Taliban took control of the northern city, where the Afghan army quickly surrendered.

The Indian government on Tuesday also announced a new electronic visa that would fast-track applications from Afghans who wish to escape to India.

The foreign ministry said it would expedite the repatriation of the country’s Hindu and Sikh communities, a move criticised by the opposition parties and activists as discriminatory.