Foreign ministry hints at talks with Taliban

The ministry does not deny direct contact with the group.

India is in contact with “various stakeholders” in Afghanistan, the Foreign Ministry said, in response to specific questions on whether the government has opened direct talks with the Taliban.

Although the MEA has not confirmed the talks, which would represent a major change in Indian politics, it has not denied recent reports that Indian security officials have exchanged messages with several “nationalist” Taliban factions. , including Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a member of the Rehbari Shura, or governing council, which includes Pakistan-based Taliban accused of terrorism.

“We are in contact with various stakeholders as part of our long-term commitment to the development and reconstruction of Afghanistan,” MEA spokesman Arindam Bagchi said, speaking to reporters on Thursday. , where he referred to the participation of Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar in the inauguration ceremony of intra-Afghan talks with Taliban leaders in Doha last year.

Significantly, Jaishankar on Thursday held a meeting with Qatar’s national security adviser Mohamed Bin Ahmed Al Mesned during a transit stopover in Doha between his visits to Kuwait and Kenya, where he said discussing “developments in the region and beyond”. “

The MEA declined to answer a question about recent developments in the Afghanistan talks during the conversation. The talks appear to have run into difficulties both in Doha, where the official Taliban headquarters are located, and in Istanbul, where a process of US-backed talks with the Taliban has been delayed by more than two months,

Deviate from the previous path

India has so far refused to open a direct dialogue with the Taliban leadership, which it held responsible for facilitating terrorist attacks with groups like Lashkar-e Taiba and Jaish-e Mohammad as part of the process. Indian missions in Afghanistan. However, according to experts, India has reconsidered its position following the US announcement that it will withdraw all its troops by September of this year.

“The clarity on the US decision to pull out, which could be as early as next month, added to the sense of urgency for Delhi to establish these direct contacts,” SOAS associate professor of international relations said. in the UK and author Avinash Paliwal. , which had confirmed Indian awareness in a column earlier this week.

“India’s exercise of opening up these channels and feeling comfortable with the public dissemination of this information is a signal both to the political community in India and to interlocutors across the country. “They are serious about talks with the Taliban,” he said. The hindu, noting that although India has had indirect contact with the Taliban in the past, this is the first time that government officials have indicated an ease with disclosing information.

An official who asked not to be named, said India’s engagement with groups in Afghanistan was motivated by a desire to “limit the damage” to its security interests as a result of states’ move. – United to leave and military reinforcement of the Taliban in several key provinces. Last April, the government decided to withdraw Indian personnel and cease operations at two Indian consulates in Jalalabad and Herat, near the borders with Pakistan and Iran respectively, pending a full review of Security. While government sources said the shutdown of operations was “temporary” and caused by the COVID pandemic, no Indian officials have been returned to either consulate.

Shirlene J. Manley