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MEA confirms first formal meeting with Taliban in Doha; concerns raised over anti-India terrorism

The meeting was held "on the request of the Taliban side", the foreign ministry noted, adding that the discussions focused on safety, security and early return of Indian nationals stranded in Afghanistan.

August 31, 2021 / 10:12 PM IST
Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, the head of Taliban's Political Office in Doha (File image: AP)

Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, the head of Taliban's Political Office in Doha (File image: AP)

The first formal talks with Taliban was held in Doha, the capital of Qatar, on August 31, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement. The meeting was held about a fortnight after the hardline Islamist group wrested control over Afghanistan.

India's ambassador to Qatar, Deepak Mittal, conveys New Delhi's concerns to top Taliban leader Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, who is also the head of Taliban's Political Office in Doha.

The meeting was held "on the request of the Taliban side", the MEA noted, adding that the discussions focused on safety, security and early return of Indian nationals stranded in Afghanistan.

The travel of Afghan nationals, especially minorities, who wish to visit to India also came up, the foreign ministry added.

"Ambassador Mittal raised India’s concern that Afghanistan’s soil should not be used for anti-Indian activities and terrorism in any manner," the MEA statement further said.

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Notably, India has long had concerns about the Taliban because of the group's close ties to arch rival Pakistan.

"The Taliban representative assured the ambassador that these issues would be positively addressed," the foreign ministry added.

Also Read | What lies ahead for Afghanistan under the Taliban?

The talks come days after Stanekzai was quoted in the local press as saying that the Taliban wanted political and economic ties with India.

There was no immediate comment from the Taliban on the talks with the Indians.

India invested more than $3 billion in development work in Afghanistan and had built close ties with the U.S.-backed Kabul government. But with the rapid advance of the Taliban, the Indian government was facing criticism at home for not opening a channel of communication to the militants.

In June, informal contacts were established with Taliban political leaders in Doha, government sources said. The big fear is that militant groups fighting Indian rule in Muslim-majority Kashmir will become emboldened with the victory of the Taliban over foreign forces, one of the sources said.

When the Taliban were last in power from 1996-2001, India along with Russia and Iran supported the Northern Alliance that pursued armed resistance against them.

Stanekzai, who Indian officials say received training in an Indian military academy as an Afghan officer in the 1980s, had informally reached out to India last month, asking it not to shut down its embassy, the source said.

With Reuters inputs
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