Industry Desk: Indian Ambassador to Qatar Deepak Mittal yesterday met the head of the Taliban’s political office Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai in Doha — the first official contact between India and the Taliban.
At the meeting, held at the Indian embassy in Qatar’s capital upon the Taliban’s request, “Mittal raised India’s concern that Afghanistan’s soil should not be used for anti-Indian activities and terrorism in any manner,” the Indian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The discussions between Mittal and Stanekzai “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,” the statement added.
The Taliban representative assured Mittal that “these issues would be positively addressed”.
This was the first officially acknowledged contact between India and the Taliban, which took control of Afghanistan 15 days ago. The meeting raised speculations about whether India would recognise the group. The meeting between Mittal and Stanekzai came three days after the latter had made an apparent outreach to New Delhi.
A statement Stanekzai read out in Pashto in a 46-minute video message broadcast last Saturday on the group’s social media platforms and Afghanistan’s Milli Television said “India is very important for this subcontinent. We want to continue our cultural, economic and trade ties with India like in the past”. “We give due importance to our political, economic and trade ties with India and we want these ties to continue. We are looking forward to working with India in this regard,” he had said.
In another significant remark in the video, Stanekzai said, “Trade with India through Pakistan is very important for us. With India, trade through air corridors will also remain open.”
Pakistan has so far steadfastly refused to give India the land transit facility to trade with Afghanistan.
Stanekzai’s statement was the first addressing India by a senior leader of the Taliban since they captured power in Kabul on August 15.
India has always viewed the Taliban’s close links with Pakistan with suspicion.
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