New Delhi: India will continue to engage with the Taliban, both at official and unofficial levels, as it wants the new power centre in Afghanistan to keep New Delhi’s security and regional interests in mind, government sources said.
The sources, however, said that there is no doubt that the caretaker government in Afghanistan has the stamp of Pakistan and feared that while the Taliban may talk about being a different entity now than what it was 20 years ago, it will be the same.
India is also unlikely to officially recognise the Taliban government in the immediate future, though no decision on it has been taken yet.
“Our activity in Afghanistan has always been people-centric. What have (we) done there? We have built roads, dams, and Parliament buildings. We want the new setup to engage with us for such developmental activities,” a high-ranking source in the government said.
The source added that the Taliban should ensure Pakistan does not interfere in the relations between Kabul and New Delhi.
“The Taliban must facilitate our interest in Afghanistan for development,” the source quoted above said.
India would also “like to be treated as equal partners” when it comes to the new Afghan government’s engagement as Afghans know that India is there for development.
“We have a lot of interest in Afghanistan because of our diaspora. Many Hindus and Sikhs live in Afghanistan, who are Afghan citizens, and we don’t want them to lose their roots,” the source said.
The Kashmir concern
Asked about the security dynamics and the worry that there could be an influx of foreign fighters into Kashmir following the US troops leaving Afghanistan and the Taliban’s takeover of the country, the source said that the situation is not the same as what it was in 1989 when the Russians left the country. Back then, following the USSR pullout from Afghanistan, Kashmir had witnessed a deluge of battle-hardened “mujahideens”, from not just Pakistan and Afghanistan, but also other countries, making their way into the Indian state.
“We have taken necessary steps though we don’t see any repeat of the earlier situation. However, even if anyone (foreign terrorists) comes, we will deal with them as we have been dealing currently,” the source said.
Ambassador of India to Qatar, Deepak Mittal had last month officially met Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, the head of the Taliban’s political office in Doha.
A statement released by the External Affairs Ministry said 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.”
While these were the publicised talks between the Narendra Modi government and the Taliban leaders, New Delhi has been engaging with them ever since the intra-Afghan dialogue began in September 2020.
Meanwhile, amid the violence that eventually culminated in the Taliban’s takeover, India “temporarily” shut down its embassy in Kabul and the four consulates in Kandahar, Mazar-i-Sharif, Herat and Jalalabad.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)