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India offering online training programme for Taliban diplomats raises brows

The MEA has not officially responded to the memo

Taliban Representation | AP

Despite not officially recognising the Taliban regime, India has reportedly offered representatives of the Taliban government in Afghanistan an opportunity to take part in its four-day virtual course about "Immersing with Indian thoughts" being conducted by IIM under the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC).

The fact that Taliban foreign ministry officials can join the programme was revealed in a memo circulated within the offices of the Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan. The memo urges official employees of the foreign ministry who are interested in English to join the programme.

Though the MEA is yet to respond, sources close to the Ministry told Hindustan Times that the course was open to students across the world, including in Afghanistan. "The course is fully online and conducted by the IIM. It is not as if someone will be coming to India for it," one of the people familiar with the matter told  Hindustan Times. 

They added that the ITEC programmes for Afghanistan, which have benefited thousands over the years, had not stopped even after the Taliban took over Afghanistan in mid-2021.

The official handle of the ITEC tweeted on Monday: "A tweet on Monday from the official handle for ITEC indicated the course was meant for delegates from various countries. "The #eITEC course on Immersing with Indian Thoughts: An Indian Immersion Program for Cross-Sectoral Foreign Delegates will provide a deeper understanding of India’s business environment, cultural heritage, and regulatory ecosystem to participants." 

According to the ITEC website, there will be a max of 30 participants, a mix of government officials, business leaders, executives, and entrepreneurs. As part of the course, there will be sessions in leadership insights into Indian thoughts, social and historical evaluation of India and the richness of cultural heritage. 

However, the Taliban's potential participation has raised brows since India does not officially recognise the Taliban, its MFA, or its diplomats. Especially since India does not provide visas to Afghan students after the Taliban takeover. New Delhi cancelled all existing visas after the Taliban came to power. 

Reports quoting Afghanistan Embassy said more than 13,000 Afghan students were studying in universities across India but many are still stranded in the war-torn country since the Taliban captured Kabul and significant cities leading to severe cracks in India’s diplomatic relations with its neighbour.

That said, New Delhi had recently sent aid to crisis-hit Afghanistan by sending  20,000 MT, a gesture lauded by the Taliban regime.

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