India Should Talk Directly to Taliban: Khalilzad

India should discuss its concerns on terrorism directly with the Taliban, said U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad, adding that he had discussed how India could play a “more active role” in the Afghan reconciliation process during his talks in Delhi.

“India is an important force in Afghanistan and it would be appropriate for that [India-Taliban] engagement to take place,” Mr. Khalilzad told The Hindu in an exclusive interview.

The envoy said India had a “significant role” in Afghanistan’s development, but paradoxically, doesn’t play a role in the international peace efforts. “India and Afghanistan have historic ties, and I believe that dialogue between India and the Taliban is important, and it would be important that issues of concern like this [terrorism] are raised directly,” he added.

This is the first time the U.S. has publicly suggested an engagement between India and the Taliban. New Delhi, that still considers the Taliban a terror group allied to Pakistan, has thus far distanced itself from any talks.

During their meeting on Thursday, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval had raised concerns over increasing violence in Afghanistan and the need to protect minorities including Afghan Sikhs and Hindus.

Mr. Khalilzad, the architect of the U.S.-Taliban agreement, travelled to Doha, Delhi and Islamabad, in an effort to iron out an impasse in the agreement over the release of prisoners and intra-Afghan negotiations. While recognising concerns over the Doha agreement, he told The Hindu that there “was no alternative” to it and hoped that India would engage “all forces” in Afghanistan, including the Taliban.

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