India sheds reluctance in engaging Taliban at the Doha intra-Afghan talks

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By engaging in the inaugural intra-Afghan dialogue in Doha, India has shown its readiness to negotiate with all Afghan parties including the Taliban for peace in Kabul and to ensure that no anti-India operation from Afghan soil is permitted.

“The Indian stance on interaction with Afghan groups is not unclear as the Indian delegation sat on the same table with both the Afghan Government and the Taliban. Only after talking to all the key players in the Afghan dialogue, the host nation Qatar may have made this possible, “a senior official said.

Pakistan is understood to have expressed to the parties concerned its concern about an Indian position at Doha, as Indian involvement is now not limited to Kabul alone, but rather New Delhi is a recognized stakeholder in the Afghan peace and reconciliation process.

New Delhi has been reluctant to engage with the Taliban over the past decade but with Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar himself addressing the inaugural session, this uncertainty has been eliminated with India willing to speak to both sides. The Taliban group, an ultra-conservative Sunni organization, is headquartered across the Bolan Pass in Quetta, and its deputy leader Sirajuddin Haqqani heads the outlawed Haqqani Network. Taliban commander Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada is a mystic and the insurgency group’s sword-arm is Haqqani.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. Representative for Afghan Reconciliation, is meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs Jaishankar today at 3.30 p.m. to brief the Modi government on the path forward for Afghan stability, elections and India ‘s expectations. Khalilzad, a Pashtun himself, will arrive from Islamabad.

Addressing the inaugural session, EAM Jaishankar had urged a truce between warring parties in Afghanistan and requested assurance from both the Afghan government and the Taliban leaders not to use Afghan soil for anti-India operations. The second section concerned the involvement of Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Tayyeba terrorist training camps located in Pakistan through both Khyber and Bolan pass.

Though India recognizes that the US needs to leave Afghanistan after 19 long years of counter-insurgency and security, it is concerned about the increase in violence until the Americans leave Kabul with just 4,700 legislative powers left after elections.

The positive sign in Doha, however, was the presence on the same table of both the Afghan Government and the Taliban, and the willingness to speak with one another. This raises expectations that once the US leaves, the Taliban will be able to take the election path this time and not go for military takeover of Kabul.

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