Indian government holds first formal meeting with Taliban leader – HERE’s WHAT HAPPENED
The Indian foreign ministry has termed the meeting the 'first formal diplomatic engagement' since the group took over Afghanistan.
According to media reports, India’s ambassador to Qatar, Deepak Mittal, held talks with the Taliban leader, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, on Tuesday. Stanekzai, who Indian officials say received training in an Indian military academy as an Afghan officer in the 1980s, is the head of the Taliban’s Political Office in Doha.
The Indian foreign ministry has termed the meeting the ‘first formal diplomatic engagement’ since the group took over Afghanistan. Sources state that the Taliban requested the meeting.
What happened during the meeting?
The Indian External Affairs Ministry said:
The two sides discussed the safety of Indians left behind in Afghanistan. Mittal also conveyed India’s fears that anti-India militants could use Afghanistan’s soil to mount attacks. The Taliban representative assured the ambassador that these issues would be positively addressed.
It should be noted that the talks came days after Stanekzai was quoted in the local press as saying:
The Taliban want political and economic ties with India.
At the time, there was no immediate comment from the Taliban on the talks with the Indian government. Suhail Shaheen, politician serving as the Taliban spokesperson in the Qatar office, said:
I have no idea of any such meeting.
However, now the news of a meeting between the two has been confirmed.
India’s relationship with Afghanistan
Over the years, India has invested more than $3 billion in development work in Afghanistan and has built close ties with the US-backed Kabul government. However, with the rapid advancement of the Taliban, the Indian government has been facing criticism at home for not opening a communication channel with the militants.
According to sources, the Indian government established informal contacts with Taliban political leaders in Doha in June. Explaining why communication was necessary between the two, the Foreign Ministry said:
The big fear is that freedom groups fighting illegal Indian occupation of Kashmir will become emboldened with the victory of the Taliban over foreign forces. Ambassador Mittal has raised India’s concern that Afghanistan’s soil should not be used for anti-Indian activities and terrorism in any manner.
While talks between the Taliban and the Indian government have begun, the other countries are still silent. Only time will tell who’s next in line to communicate with the Taliban leaders.
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