Taliban talks 'very reassuring', says India

The Taliban have been “very reassuring” during India’s conversations with the Islamist group that is ruling Kabul, and they recognise that India has contributed greatly to the people of Afghanistan, and they have “good things” to say about India, which is a “good start”, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said on Wednesday

Nov 25, 2021
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Taliban talks

The Taliban have been “very reassuring” during India’s conversations with the Islamist group that is ruling Kabul, and they recognise that India has contributed greatly to the people of Afghanistan, and they have “good things” to say about India, which is a “good start”, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said on Wednesday. In answer to a question posed by an industry member during the Annual Session of The Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC), Shringla also said that India is in touch with all countries concerned on the issue of Afghanistan, and has to see “how best to protect our interests” and "make the best of a difficult situation”.

“We’ve also established some contact with the Taliban, both in Doha as well as in Moscow in the talks, and I think the Taliban in our conversation with them have been very reassuring,” Shringla was quoted by UNI news agency as saying. 

“They have recognised that India has contributed greatly to the people of Afghanistan, that our developmental projects over the last 20 years have greatly contributed to Afghanistan’s development. They would want us to provide humanitarian assistance, they want us to reestablish our embassy there, so they have good things, which is a good start.”

He was referring to the August 31 meeting in Doha that took place between the Indian Ambassador to Qatar, Deepak Mittal, and the Head of Taliban’s Political Office in Doha, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, who later became a minister in the interim government in Kabul.

On October 20 in Moscow, a Taliban delegation led by Maulvi Abdul Salam Hanafi, Deputy Prime Minister of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, met with JP Singh, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs, on the sidelines of the Moscow Format talks, in India’s first high-level contact with the Taliban government in Kabul.

Shringla also said that India is in touch with all its partners across the globe over Afghanistan.

He referred to the UN Security Council resolution adopted on August 30 during India’s presidency, and said that it “is even now a seminal resolution on Afghanistan, because it lays the benchmarks of what the international community expects from Afghanistan and what are those requirements from the Taliban”.

“One is an inclusive negotiated political settlement, the second is that its territory should not be used to the detriment of any others, the third is that they should provide humanitarian access, fourth no human rights abuses on women, children, minorities,” he said, referring to the UNSC resolution 2593.

Referring to the November 10 NSA-level Delhi Dialogue on Afghanistan, which was participated by the security chiefs of Russia, Iran and the five Central Asian countries, he said that India is in touch with all countries concerned on the Afghan issue.

“And we will have to see how best to protect our interests, make the best of a difficult situation, but I think in many senses we have been quite active and quite engaged on the international front to make sure our larger interests are protected, and that we are not in any way vulnerable to the new strategic realities in this part of our region,” he added.

He also said that the rapid developments in Afghanistan in the recent past “in many senses have represented a setback”. “But this is a setback that we could not do much about because the US after 20 years of investment and shedding blood in that country decided to pull out. You cannot question their decision to pull out, but of course you could certainly have questions about the way it was done, but the fact that the Americans decided to pull out after 20 years was a given.

“We had to deal with a situation that was unexpected in the sense that the rapid fall of the Ghani government and the Taliban’s very swift takeover of Kabul left us in a slightly uncomfortable position,” he said, and mentioned how India swiftly evacuated its diplomatic mission and most of its citizens from the country, as well as a number of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus (SAM)