The Taliban did not want India to evacuate diplomats from its Kabul embassy, sources told NDTV today, indicating that the government had received messages from the group's Qatar office assuring them of the safety of Indian staff and security personnel.
These messages - sent from the office of Abbas Stanikzai, the chief of the Taliban's political unit - were routed via contacts in Kabul and Delhi, and were delivered before the embassy evacuations.
Sources have told NDTV the messages - viewed as a sort of outreach effort by the Taliban - were relayed to the government said Indian diplomats and embassy personnel would be unharmed. it also said India need fear no attacks on its embassy or staff from groups like the Lashkar or Jaish.
However, given the security situation and intel that suggested there was, in fact, a threat from these terror groups, the decision was made to remove diplomats and personnel.
India completed a "complicated" evacuation of embassy staff this week, with two Air Force C-17 transport planes flying into Kabul airport on Sunday, as the Taliban entered the Afghan capital.
Movement of the Indian Ambassador and the Embassy staff from Kabul to India was a difficult and complicated exercise. Thank all those whose cooperation and facilitation made it possible.— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) August 17, 2021
The security situation deteriorated sharply and no evacuations were immediately possible, sources had said, adding that the Indian embassy had been placed under observation by Taliban forces.
45 Indian personnel were evacuated on Monday - they were stopped by Taliban sentries en route to the airport, and personal belongings were confiscated.
The remaining personnel - over 120 of them, including Ambassador Rudrendra Tandon - were evacuated on Tuesday.
Two IAF transport aircraft landed at Hindan airbase in Ghaziabad now with the people evacuated from Kabul in a C-17 Globemaster that had landed in Gujarat's Jamnagar earlier today. IAF had sent additional C-130J Super Hercules aircraft to Jamnagar to bring passengers to Delhi— ANI (@ANI) August 17, 2021
There are still Indian citizens in pockets in Kabul and other Afghanistan cities, including a group of around 200 Sikhs and Hindus who have taken refuge at a gurudwara.
Yesterday the Taliban's political spokesperson, M Naeem, released a video statement of the gurudwara head saying he had been "assured" of their safety. The government has said it is working to bring back all Indians who wish to return, but has also said it will prioritise the return of Hindus and Sikhs.
The Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan has left the global community stunned; few, including the United States, expected the Ashraf Ghani government to fall so swiftly. The UN has said the Taliban's apparent desire for global recognition is its only leverage to ensure an inclusive government.
As far as India is concerned, Foreign Minister S Jaishankar has said the government is "very carefully" monitoring the situation, and that it is still "early days".
"... we are looking at the evolving situation... and I think we need to take it from there," he said.
The Taliban took effective control of Afghanistan on Sunday, after President Ashraf Ghani fled and the group walked into Kabul with no opposition. This was after a staggeringly fast rout of major cities following two decades of war that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.
Their arrival triggered widespread panic in the city, with thousands rushing to flee; heartbreaking scenes from Kabul airport made headlines around the world.
Feared for its brutal and oppressive reign two decades ago, the group has tried to present a more moderate image since it took effective control of Afghanistan this week.
It has, for instance, claimed women will have rights, including to education and work, and that the media will be independent and free. It has also insisted that no threat will be posed to any country.
However, a violent response to protests - several were killed after the terrorists opened fire - and news an Afghan journalist has been barred from working - suggest the 'moderate' stance may not last long.