India’s ICET Support to Taliban Explained
India like a host of countries is now providing assistance to the Taliban directly without recognizing the regime in Kabul. This is the pragmatic option that has been devised by New Delhi to ensure preservation of strategic interests in a country that is now governed by a regime that has been traditionally hostile in the past.
Through the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme diplomats nominated by Kabul will be trained online and there is no necessity for providing a visa to travel to India which is always a very touchy issue given sanctions on various entities and the mode of travel.
Explaining India’s position, Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs in a media briefing on March 16th said, “ On Afghanistan, I don't know whether that question was specific to Afghanistan, but let me answer it in the context that we see it, okay, which is that India has been extending capacity building assistance to developing countries across the world through what is called the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Program, known as the ITEC program”.
“This includes online courses also. These courses are on numerous topics and they are conducted by different Indian institutions. These scholarship courses are open to nationals of various countries, including those from Afghanistan, and I think a number of Afghan nationals both based in India as well as in Afghanistan have been participating in these ITEC courses. Of course, the online courses do not involve travel to India,” he added.
On a question of issue of note verbale to the Taliban government in Kabul, Bagchi clarified, “ Look, our position on how we see developments in Afghanistan has not changed and I don't think anything should be read into ITEC courses vis-a-vis that. We certainly would not be issuing note verbales, which are intergovernmental notes to, you know, entities that are not recognized”.
India has a so called “technical mission,” in Kabul to monitor development aid and assistance flow.
The Pakistan Factor
The Taliban has been careful right from the beginning of nurturing relations with New Delhi despite pressures from Islamabad which was hoping that with a group that has been supported by it over the years, it will keep India out of Afghanistan.
For India negating the influence of Pakistan on the governing order in Kabul has been a priority while at the same time sustaining the people to people relations with Afghans regardless of ethnicity also assumes importance.