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Taliban Make Overture to India, Wish for Good Relations

Aug. 30, 2021 (EIRNS)—A senior Taliban leader and deputy head of Taliban’s office in Doha, Qatar, Sher Mohammed Stanekzai, in a carefully scripted statement that he read out in Pashto in a 46-minute video message broadcast on Aug. 28 on the group’s social media platforms and Afghanistan National Television (RTA/Mili TV), said the Taliban wished to have good political and economic ties with India, including continuing the air corridor that was operational under the previous regime. Air corridor is the main trade route between India and Afghanistan since Pakistan, located in between, denies the land corridor between the two countries. As a further gesture of goodwill towards India, Taliban officials visited the Afghan-India Friendship Dam in Herat Province, built by New Delhi.

India was concerned since the Taliban’s rapid takeover of Afghanistan, following the Biden administration’s announcement that it would withdraw all troops by Aug. 31. The previous Taliban regime that ruled Afghanistan between 1996-2001 was openly hostile to India and was close to Pakistan.

It became evident to India during the U.S.-Taliban talks at Doha, which were designed to set down the ground conditions for a safe U.S. troop withdrawal, that a Taliban takeover was likely, and therefore, India made contacts with the Taliban officials in Doha. Last June, Qatar’s Special Envoy for Counterterrorism and Mediation of Conflict Resolution Mutlaq bin Majed Al Qahtani, speaking at a web conference, said the Indian officials made a “quiet visit” to Doha to speak to the Taliban’s political leadership based there. The statement came just days after India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar stopped over in Doha to meet with the Qatari leadership twice in two weeks. India’s Ministry of External Affairs declined to comment on the Qatari official’s statement but later this month admitted having developed contact with the Taliban. Reportedly, Stanekzai was a participant in the back-channel talks.

In the Aug. 24 phone discussion between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin, “They expressed their determination to increase cooperation in opposing the spread of terrorist ideology and the drugs threat emanating from Afghan territory. They agreed to establish a two-way channel for permanent consultations on this issue,” according to the Kremlin statement.

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