Tehran offers Delhi a channel to Taliban
India has so far ruled out talks with the Taliban, though it had “non-official” representation at a meeting under the “Moscow format” hosted by Russia in November. Indian officials are warily tracking what they term as “Pakistan’s activism” in the emerging processes to engage the Taliban.india Updated: Jan 09, 2019 00:04 IST
Iran has launched a dialogue with the Taliban to secure its security interests linked to Afghanistan, and India, if it desires, can use this channel of communication to reach out to insurgents, people familiar with the developments said Tuesday.
Iran was the last among regional and global players, after the US, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, to open a dialogue with the Taliban and the first meeting between the two sides was held in Tehran on December 30, the people said.
However, Tehran had established contacts with the Taliban some time ago to protect its interests along the Afghan border. Though Iran’s sway over the Taliban is not as much as that of Pakistan, India is free to use this channel of communication to establish contacts with the group, the people cited above said.
India has so far ruled out talks with the Taliban, though it had “non-official” representation at a meeting under the “Moscow format” hosted by Russia in November. Indian officials are warily tracking what they term as “Pakistan’s activism” in the emerging processes to engage the Taliban.
The people said Iran believes the Taliban are a “reality in Afghanistan” but wants to ensure that the group is not exploited by outside powers such as the US and Saudi Arabia. Tehran is comfortable with the concept of a government in Kabul in which the Taliban are participants, but not a government in which the militants are the “dominant participants”, the people added. At the same time, Tehran has warned Islamabad that a Taliban-dominated Afghanistan represents an “existential threat” to Pakistan.
Since the US appointed Zalmay Khalilzad as the special envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation and he established contact with the Taliban, a number of countries have launched parallel processes to reach out to the militants. Kab- ul is growing increasingly frustrated with these processes as it has not been a part of any of them.
The people pointed out that Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE were the only ones that had recognised the erstwhile Taliban regime in Kabul, while Khalilzad served as the contact person for US oil company Unocal, which helped the Taliban lobby with the US state department in 1997 to recognise the regime in Kabul.
Commodore (retired) C Uday Bhaskar, director of the Society for Policy Studies, said, “In the current sort of turbulence driven by US President Donald Trump, the pieces in the Afghan quagmire are going to be rearranged. It would be prudent for India to look at certain options in the changed scenario, where the Taliban may have a more visible role in the future Afghanistan.”
First Published: Jan 09, 2019 00:04 IST