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‘India Should Hold Backchannel Talks With Taliban, its Return to Power in Afghanistan is Inevitable’

The recent commitment for development in Afghanistan by external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj has brought the spotlight back to India’s engagement with the Taliban and the future ties with Afghanistan.

Aishwarya Kumar | News18.com@aishwaryak03

Updated:January 16, 2019, 10:40 AM IST
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‘India Should Hold Backchannel Talks With Taliban, its Return to Power in Afghanistan is Inevitable’
File photo of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
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New Delhi: Former deputy National Security Adviser Satish Chandra among other experts have the government to engage with Taliban as their return is an ‘inevitability.’

The recent commitment for development in Afghanistan by external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj has brought the spotlight back to India’s engagement with the Taliban and the future ties with Afghanistan.

Speaking to News18, Chandra said, "Given that a US pull-out is on the cards, and since everyone is talking to them, we should not shy away from developing contacts with them initially on a backchannel.”

He also noted that while India’s experience with the Taliban has not been good in the context of the Airlines flight IC 814 hijack episode and the evolution of Afghanistan as a training ground for terrorists, but said engaging with the Taliban would eventually help in safeguarding India’s interests.

Voicing a similar opinion, former diplomat and Indian ambassador to the Conference of Disarmament in the United Nations, Rakesh Sood, said the current establishment under President Ghani has lost credibility. “Chances of Taliban coming to power are very high and everyone, from the Russians to Europeans to Iranians is talking about Taliban.”

“There is a shift that has taken place that reflects their growing legitimacy. In the 90s, when the Taliban were first emerging, we had limited options. We could only work with the northern alliance and work with Iran and Russia. Today our options are not restricted,” he told News18.

“We should adopt a more confident diplomatic posture because we should emerge as indispensable development partner irrespective of which government comes to power in Kabul,” he further said.

Chandra said that if India were to make known that apart from continuing economic assistance to Afghanistan it does not recognize the Durand Line, it will ensure that the Taliban would shed all its negativity towards India. The Durand Line is the international border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“In this context, one needs to recall that notwithstanding all the efforts of Pakistan in the late 90's the Taliban regime stood firm against accepting the Durand Line. India would be the only country to come out so openly in support of the Afghan national position. All that we will look for in return is an understanding that there should be no export of terrorism to India from Afghan soil,” Chandra added.

Sood also said that considering the US pull-out, if there is no deal with Pakistan regarding Taliban there are chances that US will go in for a new kind of a Bonn Conference but one that will include the Taliban.

“Once the Taliban assumes power, national interest and not Pakistan will dictate its policies. India-Afghan ties have generally always been very good based on the fact that India has no designs in Afghanistan, has always been provider of economic support and the fact that a neighbour's neighbour is normally a good friend,” Chandra added.

Earlier this week, at the first India-Central Asia Dialogue in Uzbekistan, Swaraj had reiterated India’s commitment to work for the development of Afghanistan.

“While geographically, Afghanistan and Central Asia are landlocked, there are several ways in which India, Afghanistan and the Central Asian countries can join hands to work on promoting connectivity in the region so that trade and commerce may flow,’ Swaraj said.

A few days before Swaraj’s visit to Uzbek City, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat said that India must reach out to Taliban in Afghanistan but talks should be held with it without any precondition.

India, in November last year, participated the meeting hosted by Russia on Afghanistan at a “non-official level” in Moscow where representatives of the Taliban were also present.

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| Edited by: Anu Parthiban
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