By Naveen Kapoor
NEW DELHI: India has established the first contact with the Taliban ever since they took over power in Kabul and after US forces wrapped up their military mission.
On Tuesday Indian envoy held talks with Doha based Taliban leaders at the Indian embassy, interestingly the request came from the Taliban side. India has made it very clear to Taliban leadership that Afghanistan soil should not be used against anti-India activities or terrorism.
According to a release issued by MEA, “Today, Ambassador of India to Qatar, Deepak Mittal, met Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, the head of Taliban’s Political Office in Doha. The meeting took place at the Embassy of India, Doha, at the request of the Taliban side.”
“Discussions focused on safety, security and early return of Indian nationals stranded in Afghanistan. The travel of Afghan nationals, especially minorities, who wish to visit India, also came up.”
Ambassador Mittal raised India’s concern that Afghanistan’s soil should not be used for anti-Indian activities and terrorism in any manner. The Taliban Representative assured the Ambassador that these issues would be positively addressed.
India believes that Haqqani Network, which has deep linkages with Pakistan spy agency ISI and India-centric terror outfits like Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed may use its proximity and participation in the Taliban government against India.
India has so far maintained that it will wait and watch the evolving situation in Afghanistan; however, this can be seen as the first official contact between India and Taliban leadership. India is yet to share its official position on recognition of the Taliban. (ANI)
Meanwhile, according a report of Sanjay Kumar published in Arab News, media reports suggest India also held backchannel talks with the Afghan faction in the past, though this is the first time New Delhi has officially acknowledged its interaction with the Taliban leadership.
The Indian ministry informed Stanekzai “assured” the Indian envoy that Afghanistan’s soil would not be used for “anti-Indian activities and terrorism in any manner.”
The Afghan official took military training for one and a half years in the Indian Military Academy during the 1980s. According to media reports, he was known as “Sheru” by his batchmates in the academy.
Mittal’s meeting with Stanekzai took place only a day after the senior Taliban leader highlighted the importance of Afghan “political, economic and trade ties with India.”
In a video posted on social media on Monday, he said that Afghanistan wanted to continue its cultural, economic and trade ties with New Delhi. “Trade with India through Pakistan is very important for us,” he said in the message. “With India, trade through air corridors will also remain open.”
So far, India has not taken an official position on the Taliban’s political ascendency or the fall of Kabul. It evacuated its diplomatic staff from the Afghan capital on August 16, a day after the Taliban captured the city.
Indian political analysts described the meeting of their ambassador with the Taliban leader as “good news.”
“The Indian media should stop demonizing the Taliban,” said Sudheendra Kulkarni, a Mumbai-based political analyst who also advised India’s former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. “We should show both the positives and negatives of the Taliban,” he added.