The foreign ministry also said on Thursday its top priority was evacuation of “very few” Indian nationals still in Afghanistan but added the situation at the Kabul airport had to normalise first.
MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi described as positive Taliban’s response to India’s position on both these issues in the meeting the Indian ambassador to Qatar, Deepak Mittal, had with Taliban leader Mohammad Stanekzai on Tuesday. He, however, said it was too early to talk about recognition for Taliban or to even say such meetings will be held in the future.
“The Doha meeting should be seen for what it was … it was just a meeting,” said the official, adding that instead of focusing on whether or not Taliban was a terrorist organisation India was looking to ensure Afghanistan wasn’t used for anti-India activities. He added India had no details about what sort of government was going to be formed in Kabul.
While India was quick to announce the meeting in a press statement on Tuesday, the Taliban continue to maintain radio silence over the dialogue with the Indian ambassador. This is in complete contrast to how the Taliban spokespersons have been tweeting about Stanekzai’s meetings with other ambassadors and ministers.
Since Tuesday, when Mittal met Stanekzai at the Indian embassy, the Taliban have officially confirmed on Twitter that the senior Taliban leader, who is also the deputy chief of the Taliban political office in Qatar, met the ambassadors of China, Turkey and Canada and also the Dutch deputy foreign minister. Taliban’s reluctance to publicly talk about the meeting has raised eyebrows given that, as India had said in its statement, it was the Taliban that had sought the meeting.
Bagchi said it was up to Taliban whether they wanted to talk about it or not. Asked if it was the Taliban that didn’t want any photograph of the meeting released, Bagchi said “it wasn’t really that kind of an event where photos are taken”.
“I don’t think there’s any thought behind it…we don’t have a photo of it. I think neither side took a photo,” he said.
Taliban’s silence on the meeting has also led to speculation if this was meant to assuage apprehensions in Pakistan about the reported India “outreach” by Stanekzai and others.
This purported outreach has seen Taliban spokespersons assuring India that terror groups won’t be allowed to target India and that Indian authorities can continue to carry out economic activities in Afghanistan.
India though has found it difficult to take such assurances, coming mainly from Doha-based leaders, on face value. Its concerns were exacerbated on Thursday with reports from Islamabad quoting Pakistan interior minister Sheikh Rashid as saying that Pakistan had trained Taliban leaders and taken care of them for a long time. He also said that all top Taliban leaders were “born and brought up” in Pakistan.