India is skeptical about claims that the Hamid Karzai government is holding high-level talks with the Haqqani network, a Taliban group blamed for the attacks on the Indian embassy in Kabul.
Such talks would have been a matter of concern for New Delhi because of the Haqqani network’s close relationship with the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence.
US and British newspapers reported last week that the Karzai government was in contact with the Afghan Taliban as a precursor to negotiating a peace settlement. Any such settlement would have required Kabul to agree to some form of power-sharing with the Taliban, a scenario India strongly hopes will be avoided.
Indian sources say there has always been low-level contact between Karzai and the Taliban — and this level of liaison has continued. However, claims of serious negotiations are simply “disinformation”.
The sense is that these reports have been triggered by another round of talks between Afghan government representatives and ex-Taliban leaders like Walid Ahmad Muttawakil, the militant group’s former spokesperson, and Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban regime’s former ambassador to Pakistan.
These talks, concluded at the Serena Hotel in Dubai four days ago, are a continuation of earlier rounds reportedly held in late 2009 and January this year. These talks between so-called moderate Taliban and Kabul are being sponsored by the Saudi Arabian government.
However, none of the interlocutors in these talks is from the Haqqani network, the Taliban group most active in fighting against the Western-backed Karzai government.