India non-committal on talks with Taliban

U.S. Special envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad. File  

India will “continue to be guided” by its friendship with the Afghan people, said the government, remaining non-committal on renewed questions of whether it would open direct talks with the Taliban.

“We have our own perspectives on Afghanistan, and our traditional and neighbourly ties with the people of Afghanistan will continue to guide our Afghanistan policy,” a government source said, when asked about the suggestion by U.S. Special envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad that India should speak directly to the Taliban.

In an interview to The Hindu last week, Mr. Khalilzad said he favoured India-Taliban talks, the first time a U.S. official had openly made that suggestion.

“It is for India to decide its role, but I do think engagement between India and all the key players in Afghanistan ... is appropriate given India’s regional and global position. India is an important force in Afghanistan and it would be appropriate for that [India-Taliban] engagement to take place,” Mr. Khalilzad said.

External Affairs Ministry officials declined to comment on whether India would change its long-held position of dealing only with the elected government in Kabul, while considering the Taliban a terrorist organisation backed by Pakistan. While India has not opposed the U.S.-Taliban talks, it has not been a part of the reconciliation process, and has pushed for an “Afghan-owned, Afghan-led and Afghan-controlled” process for peace.

The comments by Mr. Khalilzad have led to a renewal of interest in whether India will shift its stand on talks with the Taliban, despite continued violence by the group. “There is no doubt more pressure [on the Indian government] to engage with the Taliban, but India has always dealt only with the authority in power, and talks with the Taliban would be premature at this point.” former diplomat Asoke Mukerji told The Hindu. Mr. Mukerji, who served as Indian envoy to the United Nations (2013-2015), said if talks with the Taliban were offered, then they would have to be on New Delhi’s terms, including Taliban commitments on India’s strategic projects, and Chabahar port, as well as the safety of minorities, women’s education, and most of all on terrorism, where no Afghan soil could be used by anti-India groups. He suggested that the Taliban could make progress with India if it offers to bring those of its officials who colluded with the terrorists on board IC-814 in December 1999, to justice.

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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 7:11:58 AM |

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