India important, want to maintain ties: Taliban leadership

Taliban leader Sher Mohammed Abbas Stanekzai has said the group wants to continue Afghanistan’s political, economic and cultural ties with India, the first time a member of the Taliban’s top hierarchy has spoken on the issue since the takeover of Kabul. In a video address in Pashto, Stanekzai said consultations with various groups and political parties are going on to form a government in Kabul that will have representations from people from “different walks of life”.

The Taliban leadership in Qatar has said that India is “very important for this subcontinent” and that his group wants to continue Afghanistan’s “cultural”, “economic”, “political” and “trade ties” with India “like in the past”. “We attach great importance to our trade, economic and political relations with India and want to maintain that relation,” Stanekzai said on Saturday. “We also need to keep the air trade open,” he was quoted as saying by Pakistani media outlet Independent Urdu. The Taliban leader was referring to the air corridor between India and Afghanistan that was established to boost trade between the two countries in view of Pakistan’s denial to allow transit access. Stanekzai also described India as an “important country” in the region. Without elaborating, he said Afghanistan’s trade with India through Pakistan is “very important”. Following the Taliban seizing control of Afghanistan, India has been focussing on the evacuation of its citizens, while carefully monitoring the unfolding developments in Kabul. “The situation on the ground is uncertain. The prime concern at present is the security and safety of the people. Currently, there is a lack of clarity or no clarity about any entity forming a government in Kabul,” Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said on Friday when asked whether India will recognise a Taliban regime.

Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla told leaders of various political parties on Thursday that India is engaged with the key stakeholders and regional countries on the Afghan crisis. He also said India is adopting a “wait-and-watch” approach to see whether the new dispensation in Afghanistan will be solely a government of the Taliban or be part of a power-sharing arrangement with other Afghan leaders.