In an unusual comment, the Afghan Taliban has praised India as a “significant country” in the region. It said New Delhi has done well to resist the U.S. calls for greater military involvement in Afghanistan.
“No doubt that India is a significant country in the region... They are aware of the Afghans' aspirations, creeds and love for freedom. It is totally illogical they should plunge their nation into a calamity just for the American pleasure,” the Taliban said in a statement.
The group, accused of repeatedly targeting Indian interests in Afghanistan and believed to be close to Pakistani spy agency ISI, praised India for what it called sending U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta “empty handed towards Kabul.”
The Taliban said Mr. Panetta, in his recent visit to India, encouraged New Delhi to take a more active role in Afghanistan as most foreign combat troops leave the country in 2014 but failed to “gain any success or progress in his efforts.”
Mr. Panetta “spent three days in India to transfer the heavy burden to their shoulders, to find an exit and to flee from Afghanistan,” said the Taliban.
The militant group has been fighting a bloody war with the US-led NATO forces since its ouster from power in 2001. “Some reliable media sources said that the Indian authorities did not pay heed to the U.S. demands and showed their reservations, because the Indians know or they should know that the Americans are grinding their own axe,” it said.
“Indian people and their authorities are observing this illicit war for the last 12 years and they are aware of the Afghan nation and their demands,” the statement said.
During the Afghan civil war, India extended its support to the Northern Alliance against Taliban but was pushed out of Afghanistan after the militant group took over in 1996.
The Taliban linked militant groups, especially the dreaded Haqqani Network, have been repeatedly attacking Indian interests. In one such attack, 58 people were killed and 141 wounded when the Indian Embassy in Kabul was bombed in 2008.
In the statement, the Taliban said it wanted to have cordial relations with India on the basis of sovereignty, equality, mutual respect and non-interference in each other's internal affairs.
It said the solution to the Afghan issue lay in the withdrawal of the external forces. India is one of the biggest donors to Afghanistan, spending about $2 billion on civilian projects ranging from the construction of highways to the building of Afghan parliament.
Though India extends assistance to Afghanistan in civilian areas, it has avoided involvement in bolstering Afghan security, except for running training programmes for small groups of Afghan army officers in India.