(This was originally posted in Hindustan Times)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday chaired a high-level meeting to review the situation in Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban claiming to have complete control of the country. Home minister Amit Shah, defence minister Rajnath Singh, external affairs minister S Jaishankar, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, chief of defence staff Gen Bipin Rawat and national security adviser Ajit Doval attended the meet held at PM Modi’s official residence.
There was no official word on the meeting, though people familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity that the deliberations at PM Modi’s meeting focused on the situation in Afghanistan following the Taliban’s claim that it had complete control of Afghanistan following a reported victory over resistance forces in Panjshir province. Images posted on social media showed Taliban commanders in front of the provincial governor’s compound in Panjshir, where forces of the National Resistance Front (NRF) led by Ahmad Massoud, the son of legendary commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, have been battling the Taliban.
Reports have emerged of the Pakistani military backing the Taliban in the campaign in Panjshir, especially after the Inter-Services Intelligence chief, Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, arrived in Kabul on Saturday. The NRF has also dismissed reports that the Taliban have captured the holdout province, saying its forces were still battling the group. India has adopted a wait-and-watch stance with regard to the developments in Afghanistan following the collapse of the Ashraf Ghani government and the takeover of Kabul by the Taliban on August 15.
The Indian government has said its key concern in Afghanistan is ensuring that Afghan soil isn’t used for terrorism or anti-India activities and the safe return of Indian nationals who are still in Afghanistan. These issues were raised when India’s ambassador to Qatar, Deepak Mittal, met Sher Mohammed Abbas Stanekzai, the deputy head of the Taliban’s political office in Qatar, at the Indian embassy in Doha at the request of the Taliban on August 31. This was India’s first officially acknowledged meeting with the Taliban, though the government had opened channels of communication with some Taliban leaders and factions last year. India is also yet to take a call on recognising any set-up created by the Taliban in Kabul.