India Holds First Formal Meeting with Taliban in Qatar

India Holds First Formal Meeting with Taliban in Qatar By Qatar Day - August 31, 2021

The foreign ministry said the two sides discussed the safety of Indians left behind in Afghanistan during a meeting at the Taliban's political office in Doha [File: Mohammed Dabbous/Reuters]

India’s Ambassador to Qatar, Dr Deepak Mittal, on Tuesday met a senior Taliban leader in Doha, the Indian Foreign Ministry said in a statement, in the first-ever officially acknowledged meeting between the two sides.

“Today, Ambassador of India to Qatar, Deepak Mittal, met Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, the Head of Taliban’s Political Office in Doha. The meeting took place at the Embassy of India, Doha, on the request of the Taliban side,” the statement said.

Stanekzai is a key member in the Taliban’s negotiating team and is ranked third overall among leaders based in Qatar.

He is believed to have trained for several years at the Indian Military Academy (IMA) in Dehradun in the early 1980s.

There were reports that New Delhi was in touch with the Taliban but there was no official confirmation from the Indian foreign ministry.

“Discussions focused on safety, security and early return of Indian nationals stranded in Afghanistan. The travel of Afghan nationals, especially minorities, who wish to visit to India also came up,” the Indian foreign ministry said.

“Ambassador Mittal raised India’s concern that Afghanistan’s soil should not be used for anti-Indian activities and terrorism in any manner,” the statement said.

“The Taliban Representative assured the Ambassador that these issues would be positively addressed,” the statement added.

The meeting between the two comes a fortnight after the Taliban took over Kabul on 15 August after a lightning sweep across the country. It also comes after the complete exit of the US-led international troops from Afghanistan. The last of the US troops left Afghanistan on Monday.

In recent days, Stanekzai has been seen as taking on a key role in foreign relations but he is not seen part of the decision-making team in Kabul.

By Qatar Day - August 31, 2021

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