India holds meeting with Taliban, first since Kabul fall
India's Ambassador to Qatar, Deepak Mittal, met a representative of the Taliban in Doha on Tuesday. This was India's first formal diplomatic contact with the Taliban since the group seized power in Afghanistan on August 15. This comes a day after the United States completed the withdrawal of its troops, ending its two-decade-long 'War on Terror.' Here are more details.
What was discussed in the meeting?
The meeting was held at the request of the Taliban at the Indian Embassy in Doha, the Ministry of External Affairs said. Ambassador Mittal met Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, the head of Taliban's Political Office, the MEA added. The discussion mainly focused on the safety, security, and early return of Indians stranded in Afghanistan, and travel arrangements for Afghans—especially minorities—who wish to visit India.
India raised concern over use of Afghanistan's territory by terrorists
During the meeting, India flagged its concerns over the use of Afghanistan's territory by terrorists. "Ambassador Mittal raised India's concern that Afghanistan's soil should not be used for anti-Indian activities and terrorism in any manner," the MEA said in a press release. Allaying India's fears, the Taliban representative assured India that "these issues would be positively addressed."
Yesterday, Taliban called for good relations with India
On Monday, the Taliban had emphasized India's importance in the region and said that it would want good relations with India. The Taliban's spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid, had said that there will be no threat to India from them. "The Taliban won't allow any other country to be endangered by us...We assure India...our side will not be a threat," he had said.
Taliban sought revival of trade with India
Separately, Stanekzai had also expressed the Taliban's desire to continue Afghanistan's trade with India as usual. "We want to continue our cultural, economic, and trade ties with India like in the past...Trade with India through Pakistan is very important for us. With India, trade through air corridors will also remain open." Notably, India has invested over $3 billion in Afghanistan on various development projects.
Afghanistan should not be dragged into India, Pakistan fight: Stanekzai
India has always been concerned about the Taliban's close ties with Pakistan. However, Stanekzai clarified on Monday that the Taliban has no intention to get involved in the India-Pakistan fight. He also warned against dragging Afghanistan into the internal fight between Indian and Pakistan.
India established informal contact with Taliban in June
Reportedly, India had established informal contact with the Taliban in June this year. Stanekzai had also reached out to India informally last month, asking it not to shut down its embassy, according to reports. Notably, during the Taliban's previous rule, between 1996-2001, India had supported the Northern Alliance that was mounting resistance against the Taliban at the time.