(This was originally posted in Times Of India by Sachin Parashar)
Amid renewed efforts by the government in Kabul to seek international recognition, the Taliban have said they are open to receiving Indian diplomats and providing security to them. And as winter fast approaches, threatening to worsen further the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, Taliban spokesperson and ambassador-designate to UN Suhail Shaheen also told ToI Taliban will welcome aid at this critical juncture. “We are open to receiving all diplomats and committed to providing security for their routine diplomatic functions,” said Shaheen, responding to a query by ToI on whether or not Indian diplomats can return to Afghanistan.
“Similarly, we welcome humanitarian aids in this critical time as the winter is around the corner,” he added, when asked about India’s aid offer to Afghanistan on the margins of the recent Moscow Format talks. Unlike their silence on the first official engagement with India in Doha in August this year, Taliban were quick to confirm the meeting with an Indian delegation in Moscow last month. They also said that India had offered humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan in the Moscow meeting and that both sides felt it was necessary to take into account each other’s concerns and improve “diplomatic and economic relations”.
The Indian government is likely to focus on humanitarian assistance for the Afghan people in a conference of national security advisers it has proposed to organise next month. India has also been in exploring the possibility of delivering humanitarian aid to Afghans via the Wagah-Attari land border. Significantly, the government sought to know last month from Pakistan, which prevents India from exporting to Afghanistan through the aforementioned route, if it would allow India to transport a large consignment of wheat (around 50,000 MT) and medical aid to Afghanistan. While it will be interesting to see in the coming days whether or not Pakistan facilitates this initiative, India first has to ensure there is an assurance of non-discriminatory distribution of food and medical aid once it reaches Afghanistan. India believes such an exercise must be monitored by the UN.
Shaheen’s remarks also come amid a renewed pitch by the Taliban government in Kabul to seek international legitimacy. The Taliban last week warned the US and others that if their demands for recognition were not met and if Afghan funds abroad remained frozen, it could become a problem not just for the region but the world.
“Our message to America is, if unrecognition continues, Afghan problems continue, it is the problem of the region and could turn into a problem for the world,” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid was quoted as saying.
India withdrew its diplomats from Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover of Kabul and has so far ruled out official recognition for the Kabul government saying it’s not inclusive. Even Russia, while working closely with the Taliban, has maintained it’s in no hurry to recognise the Taliban and will wait to see if they fulfil their pledges. While Pakistan too hasn’t officially recognised the Taliban government, it allowed Taliban diplomats to take control of the Afghanistan embassy in Islamabad last week, according to media reports.