New Delhi: Russia has said the Taliban is a “reality” in Afghanistan and the world should be open to seeing them have the same political legitimacy as the Hezbollah, Lebanon’s Shiite Islamist political party and militant group.
Roman Babushkin, the Deputy Ambassador of Russia to India, made the observation at a press conference Wednesday, as he sought to emphasise that the Taliban is a party to the intra-Afghan dialogue. As one of the key regional players in the region, he said, New Delhi should engage with it as with any other section of Afghan society.
The comments come as the Taliban have overrun vast swathes of Afghan territory ahead of the US troop pullout by 31 August.
Babushkin said Moscow does not see any connection between the Taliban and the Islamic State even though both are banned in Russia as terrorist organisations.
“ISIS has a global outreach. It has no borders. That’s why we see ISIS is present in Syria, in Iraq and even in South Asia. This is one threat of which we are very mindful when it comes to problem of terrorism in Afghanistan,” he said.
Contrary to ISIS, Babushkin added, the Taliban is “limited within the territory of Afghanistan. It has to establish itself as a Afghani political force”.
“Let’s compare the Taliban and Hezbollah. Hezbollah has become a political party… People are voting for them. The Taliban could be in the same position. So, of course it’s a philosophical and hypothetical question to some extent. But for the time being, we need to see that intra-Afghan talks are launched. However, this comparison will be more relevant.”
He added that Russia does not see need for any foreign forces in Afghanistan, saying no air support from India is needed.
“Currently, the situation does not require any foreign military involvement. At least, we are not considering this option… There is no discussion on military intervention,” he said.
“Military activities without a political process are worrying as instability can easily cross the borders… We can encourage the intra-Afghan talks and participate in the negotiations,” Babushkin said.
‘Russia, India actively monitoring Afghan situation’
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov are both traveling to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan at present to deliberate on the security situation of Afghanistan as key stakeholders.
Russia and India, Babushkin said, are together “actively monitoring” the situation in Afghanistan as they remain engaged multilaterally across all forums.
“The role of India and regional players is certainly important. Taliban is a current reality in Afghanistan. It is a party in the intra-Afghan talks which we believe should be a solution for normalisation and establishment of an inclusive government that should be involving all major ethnic groups,” he said.
“It is up to India to analyse the situation (in Afghanistan) and go ahead according to the current realities… Obviously, India is a big player in Afghanistan. India has always been supportive of the government in Kabul.”
He said both India and Russia will soon hold a 2+2 format dialogue between the foreign and defence ministries, with Russian President Vladimir Putin expected to visit India this year for the pending India-Russia Annual Summit.
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)
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