India Warns Russia, Iran For Engaging With Taliban

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New Delhi: India sounded a warning on Thursday to countries like Russia and Iran, which appear to be trying to change the ground situation in Afghanistan by engaging Taliban politically. In a response, MEA spokesperson said, “In so far as the Taliban is concerned, they have to respect the internationally agreed red lines, give up terrorism and violence, sever all ties with al-Qaida, agree to follow democratic norms and not do anything which will erode the gains of the last 15 years.”

This is an unusual cautionary note from India aimed at its oldest strategic partner. Even though India prefers to treat Russia with kid gloves, it feels Moscow’s latest moves in Afghanistan have the potential to stir serious trouble. MEA spokesperson Vikas Swaroop stressed India and Russia’s special relationship.

“We do not see any downward trend in our bilateral relationship,” he said. But it is clear that India has been disturbed by recent events.

Addressing Afghanistan’s upper house on the weekend, Russian envoy Alexander Mantytskiy was quoted as saying, “Zamir Kabulov (a high-ranking official in Russia’s foreign ministry) said our interests are the same as Taliban in fighting Daesh.” Russia now says it regards Taliban as a “national military-political movement”, but IS as a global jihadist movement that could destabilise Russia’s ‘near abroad’ – central Asia.

Even Iran has been reaching out to Taliban, with the aim of keeping IS out of the Afghan region. According to an Iranian news agency, an influential Iranian cleric declared this week that Tehran has invited “moderate figures such as Taliban” to attend a conference on international Islamic Unity, saying, “Iran has always held contacts with some parties in the Taliban movement.”

Iran denies any ties with Taliban, but Afghan officials have recently accused Tehran of not only harbouring families of senior Taliban commanders, but supplying them with sophisticated weapons that are destabilising the country.

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