Want good relations with all for rebuilding Afghanistan: Taliban

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Published on Mar 03, 2020 11:49 PM IST
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New Delhi

The Taliban wants good relations with all countries, including India, and to work with them for the reconstruction of Afghanistan, a spokesman for the group has said.

In an interview with Turkey’s Anadolu news agency days after the group and the US signed an agreement that paves the way for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan in the next 14 months, Taliban political spokesman Suhail Shaheen said his organisation has “no issue with any country”.

Shaheen was responding to a question regarding India, where apprehensions have been raised about the US-Taliban deal.

He said, “We have no issue with any country, neither want to have an issue with anyone, we want to establish good relations with all countries and work with them together in the reconstruction process of Afghanistan after the withdrawal of foreign forces.”

Shaheen contended those who didn’t welcome the agreement had “only exposed themselves that they do not want peace in Afghanistan”. He added, “They have to reconsider their policy.”

Experts in India have expressed reservations about the US-Taliban deal, saying Washington has ceded too much ground to the terror group while committing to the withdrawal of US and foreign forces in 14 months, the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners by March 10, and the delisting of UN-sanctioned Taliban leaders by May 29.

External affairs minister S Jaishankar echoed these concerns on Monday, when he said Western powers should ensure the achievements of the past 18 years in Afghanistan aren’t jeopardised while implementing the deal. “There is a lot of interest in various countries that the neighbours of Afghanistan and those who have interests there also play some role,” he said.

In a related development, Taliban chief Hibatullah Akhundzada has spoken of the group’s plans to have “positive bilateral relations” with regional countries.

“The Islamic Emirate believes in maintaining positive bilateral relations with the world and especially with the regional countries and is committed to the principle of good neighbourly relations with its neighbours,” he said in a message posted on the Taliban’s website on February 29.

The reference to “bilateral relations” has raised eyebrows in Delhi. An official, who declined to be named, said: “The intra-Afghan dialogue is yet to start and the Taliban isn’t part of the government in Kabul and they’re already talking of things like ties with other countries.”

The Indian government is yet to frame a policy on engaging the Taliban, though the Indian envoy to Qatar was present at the ceremony in Qatar on Saturday when the Taliban and the US signed the deal.

The Taliban is viewed with deep mistrust in official quarters in New Delhi because of its long-standing ties with Pakistan’s security establishment and its role in facilitating the escape of the Pakistani terrorists who hijacked Indian Airlines flight IC-814 to Kandahar in Afghanistan in December 1999.

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