IN WHAT is being seen as a signal to India, a member of 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”.
This overture was made by Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, deputy head of Taliban’s office in Doha, in a carefully scripted statement that he read out in Pashto in a 46-minute video message broadcast Saturday on the group’s social media platforms and Afghanistan’s Milli Television.
The signal is significant given that Pakistan holds the levers to the Taliban, and Islamabad and Rawalpindi have always seen India’s ties with Afghanistan as a negative influence. It is also the first categorical statement directed at India by a senior leader of the Taliban since they captured power in Kabul on August 15.
The Indian Express reported Sunday that the United Nations Security Council, with India as its president for the month of August, had dropped a reference to the Taliban from a paragraph in its statement asking Afghan groups to not support terrorists “operating on the territory of any other country”.
Stanekzai, incidentally, was at the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun in the 1980s as part of training for Afghan army cadets. In 1996, he had made a similar overture to India after the Taliban’s first takeover of Kabul when he was Deputy Foreign Minister of a…