In a first, India opens communication channels with Afghan Taliban factions


India outreach is largely led by security and limited officials on factions and Taliban leaders who are considered “nationalists” or outside the space for Pakistan and Iran’s influence.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban's deputy leader and negotiator, and other delegation members attend the Afghan peace conference in Moscow in March 2021
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s deputy leader and negotiator, and other delegation members attend the Afghan peace conference in Moscow in March 2021

New Delhi: India for the first time opening a communication channel with the Afghan factions and leaders of the Afghanistan, including Mullah Baradar, against the background of the withdrawal of fast US troops from Afghanistan, people with knowledge of developments have said.

This step marks a significant shift from the position of New Delhi not involved with the Afghan Taliban in any way and comes when the power of the main world is around to the position that the Taliban will play several parts in the future dispensation in Kabul.

Outreach is largely led by Indian security officials and has been limited to the factions and leaders of Taliban who are considered “nationalists” or outside the scope of Pakistan and Iran’s influence, one of the people quoted above in anonymous conditions. Outreach has been going on for several months, although it continues to explore in nature, said people.

In the case of Mullah Baradar, one of the founders of the Afghan Taliban and one of the main group negotiators, the first person quoted above said the message was exchanged by both parties even though there was no meeting confirmation. There are also conversations with other Taliban factions even though they lack believe in both parties, said people.

Outreach to Baradar is important when he signed an agreement with US Secretary Mike Pompeo in February 2020 which paved the way for the withdrawal of American troops today. Baradar held various posts when the Taliban came to power during 1996-2001. He was arrested by Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in Karachi in February 2010 after he began negotiations with the Government of Hamid Karzai in Kabul. Baradar was released by Pakistan in 2018 and became the head of the Taliban office in Doha.

India is the largest regional contributor to the reconstruction efforts and the construction of Afghanistan by promising $ 3 billion but has lagged behind other regional players such as Russia, China and Iran in building contact with Taliban, mostly due to old relations with Pakistan. Military establishment. However, the perception that the Taliban is no longer a monolithic organization and some factions may not be fully under the swing of Pakistani generals have obtained land in recent years.

“We have tried the previous option not to involve the Taliban and put all our efforts into the northern alliance,” said the Second People, referring to the United Union Front created by Tajik and other ethnic groups supported by India, Russia and Iran in Indonesia’s campaigns against the former Taliban regime in the late 1990s.

“But there was a big shift since then and there are some who think it might be better to have a line of communication with some Taliban leaders,” said the second person. People make it very clear that Indian outreach does not include the Haqqani network or member of Quetta Shura, which is seen as a Pakistani military proxy.

There is no formal response from the Ministry of External Affairs in this development.

People explain outreach to Taliban leaders who run in parallel with New Delhi’s engagement with various Afghan leadership segments, including the government of President of Ashraf Ghani and the main leader such as former President Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, Head of the High Council, Head of the High Council for National Reconciliation ,

A visit to Kabul last month by the Secretary with JP Singh, Point Point External Minister for Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, is part of sustainable involvement with Afghan leaders. “Singh was engaged to various groups and made a situation assessment on the ground and got the first hand taste,” the first person said above.

People also say sharp differences remain among Indian positions about things such as preserving profits made in Afghanistan under the democratic system, including women’s rights and minorities, and the pressure of the Taliban to build the Islamic Emirates. “However, it seems that some Taliban leaders realize that there will be some Indian role accommodation in Afghanistan and such understanding will also match the efforts of the Taliban to project themselves as groups that can work with the West,” A third person said.

As the latest report by the UN Security Council Monitoring Committee showed that the Taliban did not cut its bond with Al-Qaeda or foreign groups such as the Haqqani network, and this continued to be a concern in New Delhi. However, the feeling in the Indian capital was that everything was better than last year, when it appeared that India was very few of India said in the Afghan peace process which was driven by Trump administration.

“There are concerns about the rate of withdrawal of the US and the general feeling is that it will be resolved properly before the September 2021 time limit. But his position was not as desperate as last year when India seems to be kept from all crucial discussions,” said the third person.

Sameer Patil, Fellow for International Security Studies at the Gateway House, said there continued to be a lot of uncertainty about how the situation in Afghanistan would come out after the withdrawal of US troops. “But what is certain is the Civil War and Taliban takeover from Kabul in a few months, if not weeks, without political settlement. Therefore, it seems that India moves to protect its interests by opening a dialogue with the Taliban,” he said.

“In addition, by spilling his traditional reluctance to speak with Taliban, India maintains its relevance in the Afghan peace process. This is the only way in which India can reduce the adverse effects of setbacks in Afghan security situations,” said Patil.


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