The US has urged India to get more involved in Afghanistan and consider talking to the ‘hostile’ Taliban. India has been vehemently against the Afghan Taliban and a steadfast supporter of the Afghan government led by Ashraf Ghani.
According to reports in Indian media, possible negotiations with the Taliban was elaborately discussed between US special envoy – Zalmay Khalilzad with Foreign Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar, National Security Advisor – Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary – Harsh Shringla in New Delhi on Thursday.
New Delhi should discuss its apprehensions on terrorism directly with the Taliban, Khalilzad said, adding that he had reviewed how India could play a “more active role” in the Afghan peace process. “India is an important player in Afghanistan and it would be suitable for that [India-Taliban] engagement to take place,” Khalilzad said in an exclusive interview.
Khalilzad said India has a “vital role” in Afghanistan’s reconstruction and development, but paradoxically, doesn’t play a role in the global peace initiative. India and Afghanistan share deep-rooted ties, and I believe a meeting between India and the Taliban is important so that New Delhi could raise terror issues directly with the Taliban, he added.
This is the first time Washington has openly proposed an engagement between New Delhi and the Taliban. India considers the Taliban a terror organisation directly linked with Pakistan.
Both Jaishankar and Doval during the meeting Khalilzad raised concerns over intensifying violence in Afghanistan and the need to protect minorities including Afghan Sikhs and Hindus. Recently, as EurAsian Times reported, more than 26 Sikh worshippers were killed in Kabul Gurdwara attacks, claimed by the ISIS and allegedly sponsored by Pakistan.
Earlier, the Taliban said they desired good relations with all countries, including India. In an interview with Turkey’s Anadolu Agency, Taliban political spokesman Suhail Shaheen said his group has “no issue with any country”.
Shaheen was replying to a question regarding India, where anxieties have been raised about the US-Taliban deal. He said, “We have no issue with any country, neither want to have an issue with anyone, we want to develop good ties with all nations and work with them together in the restoration process of Afghanistan after the withdrawal of international troops.”