In a televised speech apparently meant to address the fears of the international community, Stanikzai seemed to bat for trade with India via Pakistan while also calling for the air trade route to remain open.
This is the latest in a series of remarks by Taliban leaders purporting to show an outreach to India after the government recalled all diplomatic personnel from Kabul fearing instability in the country following the Taliban takeover. The messaging indicates a desire to gain acceptance at a time most countries, including India, have highlighted concerns relating to terrorism.
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Unlike on previous occasions though, as official sources here said, this time the comments on ties with India have come from a much senior leader in the Taliban hierarchy who also happens to be the deputy head of the group’s political office. Stanikzai was also quoted as saying that Taliban attach importance to cultural and political ties with India. He also extended support to the Chabahar port in Iran which has been developed with India’s assistance.
Following what it calls a “wait and watch” approach, India has been careful not to directly name Taliban in its statements at UNSC and also UNHRC while expressing concerns about the possibility of Afghanistan being used by groups like LeT and JeM to target countries in the region. Much would depend on the Taliban’s capacity and willingness to prevent Pakistan-based groups from using Afghanistan as a training and recruiting ground against India.
While India is unlikely to, as it has said, jump the gun on officially recognising the Taliban, sources said engagement with Taliban is not ruled out. Like the US and others, the government believes engagement is important for ensuring a government in Kabul that is inclusive and representative. Under its watch, the UNSC in a statement on August 16, a day after the Taliban takeover, rolled back its “declaration” that it won’t accept restoration of an Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan. Last week, on Friday, the UNSC dropped a mention of Taliban while calling upon all groups to not support terrorist activities.