Guess what? Finally, the Indian government has clarified its stance on the recent ongoing controversy regarding the participation of Taliban members in one of its online courses under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme. India stressed that despite recent developments, there has been no change in the India’s government’s position on not recognising the Taliban setup in Afghanistan.
- Indian external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi first stated that the online courses are held so that India extends its capacity-building assistance to developing countries across the world through what is called the ITEC programme.
- Bagchi then went on to dismiss the possibility of the Indian side sending an official correspondence to “entities that are not recognised” in order to invite them for the online courses.
- Bagchi emphasised that there has been no change in the Indian government’s stance towards the Taliban setup in Kabul. “Our position on how we see developments in Afghanistan has not changed. I do not think anything should be read into ITEC courses vis-a-vis that. We certainly would not be issuing note verbales, which are inter-governmental notes, to entities that are not recognised,” he said.
- These scholarship courses cover numerous topics and are conducted by different Indian institutions. These courses are also open to nationals of various countries, including Afghanistan, he said.
- He stressed that even Afghan nationals, both based in India as well as in Afghanistan, have been participating in these ITEC courses, however, the online courses do not involve travel to India.
Back story: The entire episode garnered headlines after a letter from the head of the Institute of Diplomacy under the Taliban foreign ministry referred to a note verbale or unsigned diplomatic correspondence from the Indian embassy in Kabul asking Taliban’s officials to register for the course being conducted by the Indian Institute of Management (IIM)-Kozhikode during March 14-17.
- The controversy also arose because India re-established a diplomatic presence in Kabul by reopening its embassy in June last year. A small group of diplomats, known as a “technical team”, is currently present in Kabul though India is yet to decide on resuming support for development projects across Afghanistan.
Zoom out: At least 18 members of the Taliban regime in Kabul attended a four-day ‘India immersion’ online course that began on Tuesday. It had been offered by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs through IIM Kozhikode.