India plans talks with Taliban preparing for life after US pullout

India is planning to activate direct channels of communication with the Taliban as the possibility of the Islamist group soon taking the centre stage in mainstream politics in Kabul is appearing to be an eventuality now.

The move comes as countries such as the US and the UK have already begun to recognise the legitimacy of the Taliban.

While India has assured support to the Ashraf Ghani government for peace and stability in Afghanistan as the Taliban has gone on an offensive, the Narendra Modi government believes it should begin to establish a network of contacts with those in the Taliban who sit in Doha, the capital of Qatar, and those who see New Delhi as their partner for development.

For this, India is now banking on Russia, which is planning on playing a greater role along with Iran. New Delhi is looking to be part of that arrangement even if it means supporting a transition government in Kabul, which looks imminent there after the US troops leave by 31 August.

Russia and India are believed to have held extensive talks on what stance regional partners will be taking now that violence in Afghanistan has surged and it has become all the more significant to bring in the Taliban as interlocutors. This is because the message then will “trickle down” to their commanders who are fighting the Afghan government forces, sources said.

According to a source, the government is planning to speak to those Taliban leaders with whom India had been engaging ever since External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar participated in the intra-Afghan dialogue in Doha in September 2020.

Since the war began in Afghanistan two decades ago, India has invested about $3 billion in the development of the country.

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