In Afghanistan, cautions against military role
Appreciating India's humanitarian and developmental assistance in Afghanistan such as building the Salma Dam, roads, and other infrastructure projects in the country, the Taliban has asked India to refrain from playing a military role in the country now in the grip of a civil war.
Speaking to ANI, the Qatar-based spokesperson of Taliban, Suhail Shaheen, said, "What do you mean by military role? If they come to Afghanistan militarily and have their presence. I think that will not be good for them, they have seen the fate of military presence in Afghanistan of other countries. So it is an open book for them. And about their help to the Afghan people or national projects, I think that is something which is appreciated."
India has been assisting Afghanistan in capacity building, whether it is construction of a parliament building, schools, roads or dams. India has infused more than USD 2 billion in developmental assistance to Afghanistan.
"We appreciate everything that has been done for the people of Afghanistan like dams, national projects, infrastructure and anything that is for the development of Afghanistan, for its reconstruction, for economic prosperity and for the people of Afghanistan," Shaheen was quoted as saying.
Fearing an escalation of violence between Afghan forces and Taliban, many countries including India and the United States had evacuated staff from consulates located in provinces that had fallen under the Taliban. Many countries have cut the number of staff even as the Taliban said that the diplomatic community will not be targeted.
"About assurance to diplomats and embassies, there is no danger from our side to them. We will not target any embassy, any diplomat that we have said in our statements, not once but many times. So it is our commitment that is being published is in media. On India''s concerns, I think it is up to them. About us, our position is clear we are not targeting any diplomat or embassy," Suhail Shahen told ANI.
Asked about the safety of Sikhs and Hindus living in Afghanistan specifically about the incident when a gurdwara in Paktia province had brought down the Sikh religious flag, the Taliban spokesperson claimed that the flag was brought down by Sikh community themselves and minorities will be allowed to practice their rituals.
"That flag was removed by the Sikh community there. They removed that themselves. When there were reports in the media, we reached to our officials in Paktika province and informed them about that and then our security forces went to the gurdwara and asked about the problem," said Shaheen adding the group has assured that the community can perform their religious rituals and ceremonies.
The Taliban and Pakistan-based terror outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba are said to share deep ties. It is believed that Taliban leadership also strategic ties with the Pakistan spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Meanwhile, India fears that if the Taliban takes guard in Afghanistan, its territory will be used against anti-India activities, NDTV said.
Taliban spokesperson Shaheen rejected the link between Pakistani terror outfits and the Taliban and termed it as a politically motivated and baseless allegations. He also asserted that Afghan soil will not be used against any foreign country, including India.
"These are baseless allegations. They are created not based on ground realities but on the basis of their certain policies towards us and on the basis of politically motivated goals. We have a general policy about that we are committed not to allow anyone to use the soil of Afghanistan against any country including the neighboring countries," Shaheen told ANI in an interview.
The Taliban has taken control of almost all major provinces including Kandahar, Herat, Mazhar-e-Sharif and Lashkar Gah and is making swift advances with no intra-Afghan peace deal in sight. The Taliban spokesperson claimed that there has been no undue resort tomviolence from its side and provinces were falling on their own “voluntarily”.
"We are taking the provincial centres and areas falling to us. They are falling voluntarily to us. You can see the videos of hundreds and thousands of security forces and administration. They are coming to our side and joining that is true but they are not joining because of violence. Violence or killing of innocent people is carried by the Kabul administration and we condemn that. Why we should tell our people to increase violence when it is contrary to our policy."
He also spoke on possible power-sharing and alleged that Kabul was reluctant and not showing flexibility.
"We hope to negotiate with Kabul. They should come forward and show flexibility in order to reach a peaceful solution because our people need that. We expect that to happen as soon as possible but there is slow progress. The first factor is that the other side is reluctant to show flexibility and reach a solution. There are hurdles in releasing our prisoners and removing our blacklist which is clearly mentioned in the Doha agreement, which is very important for confidence-building measures," Taliban spokesperson said