Finally, India Warms Up To Taliban, Opens A Window

SRINAGAR: In a major break away from its stand, the government of India has reportedly opened communication channels with the Afghan Taliban factions and leaders in the wake of a rapid withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, Hindustan Times reported

The Taliban in Qatar talks

The move marks a significant shift from New Delhi’s position of not engaging with the Afghan Taliban in any way and comes at a time when key world powers are veering around to the position that the Taliban will play some part in any future dispensation in Kabul.

As per the news report, the outreach is led by the Indian security officials and has been limited to Taliban factions and leaders that are perceived as being “nationalist” or outside the sphere of influence of Pakistan and Iran.

The outreach has been underway for some months, though it continues to be exploratory in nature, one of the people cited above said on condition of anonymity.

In the case of Mullah Baradar, the co-founder of the Afghan Taliban and one of the group’s main negotiators, the first person cited above said messages were exchanged by the two sides though there was no confirmation of a meeting. There have also been conversations with other Taliban factions despite a lack of trust on both sides, the people said.

A visit to Kabul last month by joint secretary JP Singh, the external affairs ministry’s point person for Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, was part of the continuing engagement with Afghan leaders. “Singh engaged with various groups and made an assessment of the situation on the ground and got a first-hand sense of things,” the first person cited above said.

The people also said sharp differences remained between India’s position on matters such as preserving the gains made in Afghanistan under a democratic system, including the rights of women and minorities, and the Taliban’s insistence on establishing an Islamic emirate. “However, it appears that some Taliban leaders realise that there will need to be some accommodation of India’s role in Afghanistan and such an understanding will also fit in with the Taliban’s efforts to project themselves as a group that the West can work with,” a third person said.

As the latest report by a monitoring committee of the UN Security Council pointed out, the Taliban hasn’t cut its ties with al-Qaeda or foreign groups such as the Haqqani Network, and this continues to be a worry in New Delhi. However, the feeling in the Indian capital is that things are better now than last year, when it appeared that India had very little say in the Afghan peace process driven by the Trump administration.

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