Taliban claims it is not anti-India

The Taliban has come out with a rare praise of India for reportedly standing up to the US over the Afghan situation, and promised that Afghanistan won’t be used to hurt Indian interests. In a commentary on its English website, the Taliban called India “a significant country in the region” and said Indians were well aware of the “aspirations, creeds and love for freedom” of the Afghan people.

Eyeing friendship: A former Taliban fighter looks on after joining Afghan government forces during a ceremony in Herat province in March this year. File Pic/AFP

“It is totally illogical they should plunge their nation into a calamity just for the American pleasure,” it added, referring to media reports that India won’t get militarily involved in Afghanistan. The Taliban commentary on “Voice of Jehad” website followed a visit to New Delhi by US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta this month ahead of America’s planned withdrawal from Afghanistan.

It said Panetta wanted India to play a more important role in Afghanistan on the security front but that the Indians gave him a polite ‘no’. “Although full details of (the) negotiations have not come out, it seems the host’s answer was negative... (Panetta) spent three days in India to transfer the heavy burden to their shoulders, to find an exit and to flee from Afghanistan.

“Some reliable media sources said the Indian authorities did not pay heed to (US) demands and showed their reservations, because the Indians know or they should know that the Americans are grinding their own axe. “No doubt India is a significant country in the region but is also worth mentioning that they have full information about Afghanistan because they know each other very well in the long history.

“They are aware of the Afghans’ aspirations, creeds and love for freedom. It is totally illogical they should plunge their nation into a calamity just for the American pleasure.” It said the Taliban wanted “to have cordial relations on the basis of sovereignty, equality, mutual respect and no interference in each other’s internal affairs. We have made it clear that no one would be allowed to use the Afghan soil for anyone’s detriment.”

The commentary assumes significance because India along with Iran and Russia played a major role in keeping alive the Northern Alliance when the Taliban ruled Kabul. The Alliance ousted the Taliban after 9/11. Many in New Delhi have been opposed to the Pakistan-backed Taliban fearing that a return of the militia to Kabul would benefit Islamabad. The commentary seemed to be an attempt by the Taliban to assure New Delhi that it need not worry despite the militia’s close ties with Pakistan, India’s arch foe. 

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