India begins direct communication with Taliban

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Intl desk, Aug 31: India Tuesday began direct communication with the Taliban since the terrorist group’s lightning takeover of Afghanistan two weeks back.

Indian envoy in Qatar Deepak Mittal held talks with Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, the head of the Taliban’s Political Office in the Gulf state, at the country’s Embassy in Doha, the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.

At the meeting, Ambassador Mittal raised India’s concern that Afghanistan’s soil should not be used for anti-Indian activities and terrorism in any manner, to which Stanekzai assured him that these issues would be positively addressed, according to the statement.

“Discussions focused on safety, security and early return of Indian nationals stranded in Afghanistan. The travel of Afghan nationals, especially minorities, who wish to visit India also came up,” it added.

The meeting comes days after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi set up a high-level committee to keep a tab on the developments in Afghanistan. “A wait-and-watch approach has been adopted by the government,” a top diplomat told the Indian media.

The Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan on August 15, with the American troops ending their 20-year military presence in the South Asian country.

Last week, India’s top military man — Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat — apparently issued a warning to the Taliban, saying the country “is ready to deal with any terrorism spilling out of Afghanistan”.

Though Afghanistan has closed its airspace for all civilian flights, India has been evacuating its nationals from that country. In the past few weeks, the Indian Air Force has airlifted more than 600 of its nationals, including its Ambassador, from Kabul.

Earlier, India had evacuated all its diplomatic staff and their family members from its three consulates in Afghanistan — Kandahar, Jalalabad and Herat.

India is particularly worried about the implications of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, given it has already infused over three billion USD worth development aid into that country and the horrific memories of the Taliban’s role in the hijacking of an Indian airliner in 1999.

Source: News Agencies