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Situation dire, India must tell Taliban join mainstream, support only then, says Afghan envoy

The exit of US troops has had the Taliban overrunning large swathes in Afghanistan, especially in the northern provinces which were never under their control.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi |
Updated: July 14, 2021 7:45:37 am
Situation dire, India must tell Taliban join mainstream, support only then, says Afghan envoyFarid Mamundzay, Afghan Ambassador to India

Describing the situation in Afghanistan as “difficult, dire and problematic”, Farid Mamundzay, the country’s ambassador to India, has said Delhi should convey to the Taliban that if they cut ties with “regional terrorist groups” and give up violence to become part of the “mainstream society”, it will continue to support and assist Afghanistan politically and diplomatically.

In an exclusive interview to The Indian Express, Mamundzay said Indian development projects — roads, schools, dams among others — are “at risk” if the security situation deteriorates further. The exit of US troops has had the Taliban overrunning large swathes in Afghanistan, especially in the northern provinces which were never under their control.

India has committed about USD 3 billion towards projects in all 34 provinces of Afghanistan.

“Taliban are Afghans. Today or tomorrow, they will talk to us. They will talk to the Afghan people and Afghan government. And we want the Taliban to let go of violence, cut ties with international terrorist groups, and become part of the mainstream polity of the country in a peaceful manner, in a peaceful way,” Mamundzay said.

“Engagement of India with the Taliban is something that we cannot officially confirm at this stage. But of course, strong messages from India would certainly help convey messages of cutting ties with regional terrorist groups. Messages that India would continue to support Afghanistan should Taliban become part of the mainstream society again. India would continue to assist Afghanistan in education, politically, diplomatically.”

“Those would go a long way, I hope, with the Taliban. Taliban would realise that should they let go of violence, should they become part of the mainstream society, India would continue to partner with Afghanistan. So those are some of the messages that the Indian government can send to the Taliban,” he said.

The ambassador, who came to India just about four months ago and is fluent in Hindi, said Delhi’s decision to evacuate its Indian personnel from the consulate in Kandahar was to avoid any “potential” and “unwanted catastrophe”.

He said the decision was taken after the Afghan government’s assessments showed that security was an “issue” in Kandahar.

On Mazhar-e-Sharif, the city in the north where India has another consulate, he said assessments currently show that security is “not a major challenge at this stage”. “But of course, if the situation begins to deteriorate, then we may get to a stage where we would have to evacuate there as well,” he said.

Asked whether Afghanistan has sought military assistance from India, he said the government has “not yet officially requested India for any military assistance”. He said currently they have got assistance from the US and the NATO forces, and they are “sufficient enough” and the Afghan national security forces “have the capacity of utilising those resources and assets”.

“Should we require more assistance, yes, we will certainly be seeking assistance from India. But as of right now, there are no such requests from our side to the Indian government,” he said.

He said there is “an element of fear that exists among ordinary Afghans” that if they don’t get support to secure Afghanistan and combat the Taliban, they would “certainly be heading back” to the mid-1990s era when the Taliban took control of the country.

He said Pakistan holds “considerable amount of influence and leverage with Taliban”, and Kabul’s request to Islamabad has been to “productively utilise their influence to bring Taliban to the negotiating table, to make them agree to a process which would make this region prosper”.

Following the withdrawal of US troops, he said China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are playing a role in the current situation.

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