By Naveed Hussain
June 18th 2012
In an unusual move, the Afghan Taliban have acknowledged India as a ‘significant’ regional player and praised it for resisting US pressure for a greater role in Afghanistan post-2014.
On a trip to New Delhi earlier this month, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta urged the Indian leadership to “continue with additional support to Afghanistan through trade and investment, reconstruction, and help for Afghan security forces”.
According to reliable sources, “the Indian authorities did not pay heed to (the American) demands and showed their reservations, because the Indians know or they should know that the Americans are grinding their own axe,” said a Taliban statement posted on their ‘Voice of Jihad’ website.
It added that the United States wanted India to shoulder “the heavy burden (of war)” so that they could “find an exit and to flee from Afghanistan”.
But the Indians are aware of the Afghan people’s love for freedom, the statement said. “It is totally illogical they should plunge their nation into a calamity (just to please the Americans).”
The statement described India as a ‘significant country’ which knows much about Afghanistan with which it has a long relationship.
During the Afghan civil war sparked by the withdrawal of the Red Army, India had supported the Northern Alliance, an umbrella of non-Pashtun minorities, against the Taliban but was pushed out of Afghanistan after the ultraorthodox militia took over in 1996.
India, like US and its allies, believe that Pakistan is covertly stoking the insurgency of the Taliban who are overwhelmingly Pashtun. Several attacks on Indian interests in Afghanistan were blamed on the Haqqani Network – the deadliest of all Taliban factions.
Since the ouster of the Taliban regime, India has focused more on infrastructure development and capacity building. It is helping reconstruct Afghan parliament, equip the Indira Gandhi Children’s Hospital and train students in various vocations.
Later this month, India will host a day-long conference to discuss international private-sector investment in the war-hit, impoverished country, according to Afghan foreign ministry spokesperson Janan Musazai.
New Delhi is also offering training courses for officers of the Afghan National Army and police – putting arch-rival Pakistan ill at ease.
The Taliban statement reiterated its belief in peaceful coexistence but warned against any foreign interference in their country.
“We want to have cordial relations (with all neighbours) on the basis of sovereignty, equality, mutual respect and non interference in each other’s internal affairs,” it added.
At the same time, the Taliban sought to address India’s concerns in a post-US withdrawal Afghanistan. “We have made it clear that no one would be allowed to use the Afghan soil for anyone’s detriment,” the statement said.
In the end the statement renewed the Taliban’s call for the withdrawal of all foreign forces and to “leave the sovereignty of Afghanistan for Afghans themselves”.
Analysts believe that the rare appreciation of India shows that the Taliban are becoming independent and pragmatic in their dealings with other regional countries.
But for Indian security analysts, it’s a sort of veiled warning to India to back off. “It’s more a gentle reminder asking India not to mess around in Afghanistan after the Americans leave,” Vikram Sood, a former chief of India’s intelligence agency, told Reuters.
Originally published by Tribune Pakistan