Kabul: In a huge development, the Indian government may have opened channels of communication with Taliban leaders including chief of their political office Mullah Baradar, as per reports by the newspaper Hindustan Times.
The communication channel is largely being led by Indian security officials and is limited to those Taliban factions and leaders that are perceived as being “nationalist” or outside the sphere of influence of Pakistan and Iran. The outreach has been underway for some months, though it continues to be exploratory in nature, the sources who spoke to the newspaper revealed.
In the case of Mullah Baradar, messages were exchanged by the two sides though there was no confirmation of a meeting. There have also been conversations with other Taliban factions despite a lack of trust on both sides, the report added. The link with Baradar is important because he signed the deal with then US secretary of state Mike Pompeo in February 2020 that paved the way for the current withdrawal of American troops.
“We have tried the earlier option of not engaging the Taliban and putting all our efforts into the Northern Alliance,” the paper quoted a source as saying, referring to the front that was created against the former Taliban regime in the late 1990s. “But there has been a huge shift since then and there are some who think it might be better to have a line of communication with some Taliban leaders,” the paper quoted another source as saying.
The move marks a significant shift from New Delhi’s position of not engaging with the Taliban, at a time when there might be a possibility that the Taliban will play some part in any future government in Kabul.
The sources who spoke to the newspaper made it clear that India’s outreach didn’t include the Haqqani Network or members of the Quetta Shura, who are seen as proxies of the Pakistani military.
There was no formal response from the Indian external affairs ministry on these developments.
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New Delhi is engaging with different segments of the Afghan leadership, including President Ashraf Ghani’s government and key leaders such as former president Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the High Council for National Reconciliation.