Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur)


- Rezaul H Laskar

NEW DELHI: India has for the first time opened channels of communicat­ion with Afghan Taliban factions and leaders, including Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, against the backdrop of the rapid drawdown of US forces from Afghanista­n, people with knowledge of the developmen­t said.

The move marks a significan­t shift from New Delhi’s position of not engaging with the Afghan Taliban in any way and comes at a time when key world powers are veering round to the position that the Taliban will play some part in any future dispensati­on in Kabul. The outreach is largely being led by Indian security officials and has been limited to Taliban factions and leaders that are perceived as being “nationalis­t” or outside the sphere of influence of Pakistan and Iran, one of the people cited above said on condition of anonymity. The outreach has been underway for some months, though it continues to be explorator­y in nature, the people said.

In the case of Mullah Baradar, the co-founder of the Afghan Taliban and one of the group’s main negotiator­s, the first person cited above said messages had been exchanged by the two sides though there was no confirmati­on of a meeting. There have also been conversati­ons with other Taliban factions despite a lack of trust on both sides, the people said.

India is the largest regional contributo­r to Afghanista­n’s reconstruc­tion and developmen­t efforts with pledges of $3 billion.

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