08:44 GMT30 July 2021
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    The idea of holding talks with the Taliban is not very popular in India, after a 1999 plane hijacking incident when Pakistan-backed militants hijacked an Indian plane and landed it in Taliban-controlled Kandahar province. The BJP-led federal government at the time had to release three dreaded terrorists to secure the release of the passengers.

    Senior Congress Party lawmaker and former Indian state chief Digvijaya Singh has sought an explanation from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government over reports that India is “secretly” holding talks with the Taliban.

    “This is a very serious matter. The Indian government must come clean on it by issuing a statement,” stated Singh, referring to a news report that Indian officials flew to Qatar to hold talks with the insurgent group.

    The 74-year-old politician is currently Congress party’s general secretary, one of the most influential positions within the federal opposition party.

    ​Singh’s remarks drew a sharp response from Shivraj Singh Chouhan, a senior leader from the country's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who quipped that the Congress leader’s “mentality” is the same as that of the Taliban.

    Leading Indian English daily The Hindu quoted a Qatari diplomat as saying that Indian officials paid a “quiet visit” to Doha recently to hold discussions with the Taliban.

    The remarks by Qatar’s special envoy for counter-terrorism and conflict resolution Mutlaq bin Majed al-Qahtani were made during a virtual conference, ‘Looking towards peace in Afghanistan after the US-NATO withdrawal’, organised by the Arab Center Washington DC on Monday.

    “I understand that there has been a quiet visit by Indian officials…to speak with the Taliban. Why? Because not everybody is believing that the Taliban will dominate and take over... Because the Taliban is a key component of, or should be or is going to be a key component of the future of Afghanistan,” Al-Qahtani was quoted as saying.

    The official third-party confirmation was the first time that anyone confirmed interaction between New Delhi and the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), or the Taliban.

    The Indian foreign ministry has so far remained tight-lipped on reported meetings between New Delhi and the Islamic insurgent group.

    “We are in touch with various stakeholders...in pursuance of our long-term commitment towards development and reconstruction of Afghanistan,” India’s foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said this month, when asked to comment on another report about opening of a dialogue between New Delhi and the Taliban.

    The news report in question cited official Indian sources, noting that a joint secretary at the Ministry of External Affairs’ (MEA) Afghanistan-Pakistan desk recently paid a visit to Kabul.

    Meanwhile, Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on Tuesday expressed concern over the uptick in violence in Afghanistan since the US-led forces began pulling out foreign troops in the region.

    “India has been supportive of all the efforts being made to accelerate the dialogue between the Afghan government and the Taliban, including the intra-Afghan negotiations,” stated Jaishankar, while addressing a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) debate on the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.


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