Claiming that it was not in “direct conflict” with India, the Taliban have said there was a possibility of reconciliation even as they justified the February 26 Kabul attack on Indians as a “legitimate” action.
In a self-contradicting interview, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed his organisation did not want India out of Afghanistan but attacked the country for supporting the Hamid Karzai government and western forces.
“If the Taliban return to power, we would like to maintain normal relations with countries including India. It’s possible for the Taliban and India to reconcile with each other,” Mujahid told Outlook magazine. He said “India’s role is different from those countries that sent troops to occupy Afghanistan.”
At the same time, he added that, “India isn’t neutral in the Afghan conflict as it is supporting the military presence of U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan and working for the strengthening of the Hamid Karzai government.”
Also, he said, “India has never condemned the civilian casualties caused by the occupying forces”, a reference to the U.S.-led troops in Afghanistan.
Asked about the February 26 attack in which Indians, housed in two hotels in Kabul, were targeted, the spokesman said the Taliban were responsible for it.
He said it was carried out by “Taliban fighters after we got intelligence information that RAW agents were holding a meeting there.”
The February 26 attack targeted Indians engaged in developmental projects like medical and education programmes, killing seven of them.
Claiming that India was supporting the Afghan government and the western forces, Mujahid said the country is, “therefore, a legitimate target for us.”
Asked if Taliban wanted India out of Afghanistan, he said, “We are not saying that India should be out of Afghanistan. Nor can India be completely expelled from Afghanistan.”
The Taliban spokesman noted that India and Afghanistan have had historic ties and said “The Taliban aren’t in any direct conflict with India. India troops aren’t part of NATO forces, they haven’t occupied Afghanistan.”
He claimed that the Taliban “favour neither India nor Pakistan” but hastened to add that they cannot “ignore Pakistan as it is a neighbouring Islamic country” and was on good terms with them when they were in power.
“India, on the other hand, backed anti-Taliban forces of the Northern Alliance (NA) and refused to do business with our government... Our complaint is India backed the NA (Northern Alliance), and is now supporting the Karzai government,” Mujahid said.
He was also critical when asked about Indian projects and whether those were beneficial for Afghan people.
Claiming that India was doing all this to promote its interest in Afghanistan, he said, “If India was so fond of the Afghan people, why did it not undertake development projects under the Taliban rule?”