New Delhi: India should establish ties based on national and mutual interest with the Taliban government in Kabul and sever all links with the former Ashraf Ghani government, according to Suhail Shaheen, head of the Taliban’s political office in Doha and official spokesperson.
In an exclusive interview with ThePrint, the Taliban leader said India should seek to have deeper ties with the people of Afghanistan and should reopen its embassy in Kabul. He said that the Taliban was committed to providing full security to Indian diplomats.
“We have announced time and again that it is our commitment to provide security to all diplomats working in Kabul. It is our responsibility and we have proved that. There are many embassies working in Kabul and we have provided full security to them. That also includes India if they want to open their embassy”, Shaheen told ThePrint.
He said, “They (India) are welcome if they want to complete their projects or to initiate new ones. India should not have relations and base all their relations on the individual lens of those officials of the former Kabul administration who are now in western countries living along with their families. But should have a relationship with the people of Afghanistan, they were there, they are there, and they will be there. So that is good for them. We are now two independent governments and countries and we should have relations on the basis of national interest and on the basis of equality and mutual interest.”
India had shut down its embassy in Kabul in August 2021 when the Taliban took over Kabul. Prior to that, India had also closed down its consulates in Mazar-i-Sharif, Kandahar, Herat, and Jalalabad.
Since the Taliban takeover, India has sent several batches of humanitarian aid and assistance to Afghanistan from food grains, medicines, and other essential items.
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‘Afghan soil will not be used for terrorism’
Shaheen also reiterated Taliban’s commitment to the international community that it made under the Doha Agreement, which was signed between the Taliban and the US in February 2020.
“We say that no one will misuse Afghanistan soil, we see this in our national interest and it is our commitment according to the Doha Agreement. We think if that happens it harms Afghanistan more and the people of Afghanistan rather than others,” Shaheen said.
“Foreign agenda was never our agenda. From the beginning, our agenda was to free our country and establish a government supported by the people of Afghanistan. That has happened… Now, there is peace and security and there is a need for operation and assistance. This is the time for countries to come and initiate economic projects which are good for them and for our people.”
He said this is one of the reasons why the Taliban government recently acted as a mediator between Pakistan and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) as that will be “good for everyone”.
“We want peace and stability in Afghanistan and in the region on the basis of the Doha Agreement, we are abiding by that and for that, we have mediated between Pakistan and Pakistani Taliban. That is good for everyone,” said Shaheen.
The Taliban spokesperson also said, “We want Afghanistan to be a hub of trade and create an environment where all countries can have commerce and good relations that will be beneficial for neighboring countries and the region as such.”
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Committee to look at the reopening of schools for Afghan girls
On March 23 the Taliban interim government in Afghanistan announced that all high schools for girls will close and the order came within hours of them getting opened that morning. While the move invited widespread criticism from around the world, the Taliban feels there has to be a “conducive environment” for young Afghan girls to go back to school.
“On the reopening of secondary schools for girls, a political committee (consisting of religious scholars) has been set up, particularly for this issue and I hope this is resolved at the earliest,” Shaheen said.
“I do know the importance of education and I have been saying that education is the right of both boys and girls and my government is saying the same thing. The issue is only the conducive environment and the hijab. Because we are an Islamic society, we fought for our liberation for 20 years, our people are expecting this from us. This is the demand of our people. We have promised that, and we have to deliver that,” he insisted.
Stressing the fact that the Taliban is “not against” the education of Afghan girls, Shaheen said, the Taliban wants them to go to exclusive girls’ schools.
“We are not against education but just we will provide a conducive environment and this committee of religious scholars has been set up and I hope this is finalised and resolved. By conducive environment I mean there will be girls’ schools not co-education and they can use a shawl, they can use a hijab which is used all over Islamic and even non-Islamic countries,” he said.
“The decision will come soon. The committee has been established and their only goal and task is to seek a solution to this issue which is also the demand of our people.”
He said currently, more than 100,000 female students are studying in private and public universities across Afghanistan and that the Ministry of Education recently opened 3,000 vacancies for the post of female teachers.
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Taliban should get recognition, sanctions lifted
According to Shaheen, the Taliban has done all it can and adhered to the requirements needed under the Doha deal to obtain international recognition even as he batted for the lifting of sanctions imposed on them by the western world.
“The international community should not tie their humanitarian assistance with political demands. If they have any differences, we are ready to talk about them and solve those differences to reach an understanding. But they should not use starvation as a tactic to get to their political goals,” he said.
Shaheen added, “The sanctions should be lifted and we are ready and have investor-friendly laws and we welcome investments of other countries while at the same time we are working on our own basic rights of our people in the light of our Islamic values and noble tradition.”
He also said that the Taliban is working towards establishing a permanent government and a full cabinet soon.
(Edited by Manoj Ramachandran)
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