Top India Diplomat Finally Meets A Senior Taliban Leader

SRINAGAR: India finally has reached out to the new Kabul regime led by the Taliban. One of its top diplomats in Doha had a detailed meeting with senior Taliban leader Sher Mohammed Stanekzai at Doha, reports in the media said.

Mulla Andul Gani Baradar with his colleagues. Sher M Abbas Stanikzai is on the left. He was educated in India.

The meeting between the two sides has taken place in Indian High Commission. It coincided with the US leaving Afghanistan and India completing its month long presidentship of the United Nations Security Council.

“India today discussed the safety and security of its nationals with senior Taliban leader Sher Mohammed Stanekzai at Doha and got assurance from him that the new regime will not allow its territory to be used for anti-India activities,” Hindustan Times reported. “Stanekzai is the head of Taliban political office in Doha, Qatar and a former alumnus of Indian Military Academy in the 1980s. The meeting, sanctioned by the top Taliban leadership, lasted over an hour.”

On August 29, Stanekzai has asked India to resume trade with Kabul.

“ The Indian interlocutor, Ambassador to Qatar and Af-Pak expert Deepak Mittal, made it clear that India wanted the safety and security of its nationals still stuck in Afghanistan as well as those of Hindu and Sikh minority communities living in that country. Mittal also sought assurance from the Taliban that Afghanistan under the Taliban would not allow the use of its territory for anti-India activity without naming Pakistan based terrorist groups,” the newspaper added.

The Mittal-Stanekzai meeting came within days after India’s opposition members, in an all-party meeting, had talked about India’s “diplomatic isolation” in Afghanistan.

“That Stanekzai personally called to fix up the meeting held in the Indian Embassy premises at Doha says it all with New Delhi already alerted in advance a day before. Clearly, the Indian efforts to broker a resolution at the UNSC on August 30 and that it heads the UNSC sanctions committee had a role to play in the Taliban reach-out,” the newspaper added.

This is being seen as a major forward movement. However, this is not been seen as formal recognition of Taliban led Kabul by New Delhi.

The meeting came a day after India as UN SC president piloted a resolution asking the war-ravaged country may not be used to threaten or attack any nation or shelter terrorists. The UNSC resolution, passed by 13 of the 15 members (China and Russia abstained) also refrained from using the term ‘terrorist’ for the organisation, indicating that the world body is trying to ease itself into dealing with the Taliban, which still remains on the UN list as a designated terrorist outfit.

A statement issued by the MEA said the, discussions between Mittal and Stanekzai focused on safety, security and early return of Indian nationals stranded in Afghanistan. The travel of Afghan nationals, especially minorities, who wish to visit to India, also came up. While 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,” the statement noted.

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