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Engaging with Taliban

The participation of Taliban officials in an online training course, which is being conducted under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme of the Ministry of External Affairs, is a significant step towards rebuilding Delhi-Kabul relations. The four-day course, curiously titled ‘Immersing with Indian Thoughts’, is aimed at providing ‘a deeper understanding of India’s business environment, cultural heritage and regulatory ecosystem’ to delegates from various countries, including Afghanistan.

The Taliban rulers, who have been in power in Afghanistan ever since they captured Kabul in August 2021, continue to await international recognition. Though India has stopped short of endorsing the regime’s legitimacy, realisation has dawned on New Delhi that the Taliban are here to stay and cannot be wished away. This was evident from India’s decision to reopen its embassy in Kabul last year, even as an Indian delegation had travelled to Afghanistan. The Afghan foreign ministry had called the visit ‘a good beginning’ for ties between the two nations. Continuing with its policy of providing humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, two-thirds of whose citizens are facing severe hunger, New Delhi recently sent wheat to the crisis-hit country through Iran’s Chabahar port instead of taking the hassle-prone road route via Pakistan.

The alacrity with which the Institute of Diplomacy, which falls under Afghanistan’s foreign ministry, shared/leaked the ITEC invite shows that the Taliban don’t want to miss any opportunity to reach out to India. They see New Delhi as a major stakeholder which can play a key role in facilitating long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan. At the same time, India’s tough stand on cross-border terrorism is putting the Taliban under increasing pressure to rein in Pakistan-based terror groups which are using Afghan territory to foment trouble in the region. Having invested billions of dollars in 500-odd projects in Afghanistan after the US invasion of 2001, India needs to have the Taliban on board in order to resume financial and technical assistance for these development ventures. A pragmatic, proactive approach can help New Delhi safeguard its interests in Afghanistan. (Courtesy tribune india)

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