Talks with India can be held on ‘condition of impartiality’: Taliban spokesperson | Exclusive – Part I

No talks have been held between India and the Taliban, Mohammad Suhail Shaheen told India Today from Doha in Qatar. Mohammad Suhail Shaheen is a member of the negotiations team and the Taliban’s spokesperson for international media.

In an exclusive interview with India Today, Mohammad Suhail Shaheen also said that dialogue between the Taliban and India can take place “on the condition of impartiality”.

He went on to add that as per the Doha agreement, the Taliban will not allow any individual or entity to use Afghan soil to mount an attack against any other country in the world.

READ: Indian officials had a ‘quiet’ rendezvous with Taliban, says Qatari special envoy

Referring to Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani, Mohammad Suhail Shaheen said the Taliban wants to oust the current administration in Kabul. The Taliban will not surrender to the Afghan government, he added.

Here are excerpts from the interview:

Question: Are Indians in talks with the Taliban and at what level?

Answer: There were reports about an Indian delegation visiting or meeting our delegation. I have seen that, but I can’t confirm it, because according to my information, it has not happened.

Based on my information, no meeting has taken place.

Question: India seeks peace in Afghanistan. There are concerns for the security of Indians and minorities in Afghanistan. The consulate in Kandahar was evacuated in July. Today, the consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif has been evacuated. There are concerns that when the Taliban reaches an area, Indians will have to leave that area.

Answer: There are two parts of the story. One belongs to us. We have issued statements that we are committed to the security of all diplomats and embassies in Afghanistan. Not once, but on many occasions. There were remarks by the spokesman of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Mr Zabiullah Mujahid, and also statements from the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

And the other is the concern of India. They are taking their diplomats from those areas for their own reasons, for their own concerns. That is up to them. But what was related to us, we have already cleared our position and shown our commitment to the security of all those serving diplomats in embassies.

The other thing is about women’s education. We do not have an objection to women having access to education and work. We have said that time and again, but only that they are Muslim women and may have to wear Islamic “hijab” (veil). Right now, in areas under our control, girls’ high schools, universities, where women are receiving education, are all operating. They have not been restricted from working or receiving education.

Question: Would the Taliban consider having India as part of the Doha talks?

Answer: I think it is really important for India to show impartiality. We have been receiving reports that they are supporting the Kabul administration with military hardware, which is used by the administration against its own people.

We saw in Lashkargah, Helmand province, bombing by the same weapon. It is very important that India shows impartiality; they should be with the people of Afghanistan rather than with a government which is imposed or which came into being as a result of the occupation. That is for them to decide whether they are standing with the people of Afghanistan or with the government imposed by foreign capitals.

Question: Otherwise there can be no talks with the Taliban? America also provides support to the Kabul administration.

Answer: They [India] are fighting one side and supporting, providing weapons to the Kabul administration. America was fighting our country and they were a party against us and then we talked because they reached the conclusion that there is no military solution and we also reached the conclusion that there is no military solution.

Question: Why different rules for India? Shouldn’t India, as a neighbor, be a part of the Doha talks?

Answer: About the reconstruction in Afghanistan and positive steps which are taken by any country, we appreciate that if it is for the people of Afghanistan. But, not if they are helping the Kabul administration against the people of Afghanistan, they are helping baseless propaganda against us.

I remember that India was siding with the government in Kabul, while all the people of Afghanistan were fighting for the liberation of the country.

Even now, they [India] are against the people, against the freedom fighters and with the occupying forces. So it is for them to change their position.

Question: Will we see India at the negotiating table in the future?

Answer: I think that is for the future whether to be part of the talks or not, but right now, I think they should establish their impartiality. That would be an important step forward.

Question: In terms of minorities, the recent incident of a Gurudwara where the Nishan-e-Sahib was removed by the Taliban. And later on, it was restored. What really happened?

Answer: This narrative spread in the media about Gurudwara was not correct. It was a baseless claim that members of the Islamic Emirate (Taliban) removed the flag.

When I texted them to find out, they didn’t even know where it was located.

And then, when we found the location after a struggle, we asked the people why they took down the flag. They said ‘we have fear, we have worries that if the flag is there, someone will notice that and they will harass us’. We assured them that it is our policy not to put restrictions on minorities. You have rights.

We gave them the contact number. If there was any issue, contact them and told them that they can perform their religious ceremonies and rituals as they were doing. And then the flag was hoisted again.

Question: What about security in the future of the minorities in Afghanistan? Should they be concerned? Because they certainly are concerned:

Answer: If they are concerned, then their worries are not based on realities. If they want us to explain our policies, they can lead their lives as Afghans. There is no discrimination against them. They can perform their rituals as they have been doing for years.

As Afghans, we can participate in the service of the people, in the reconstruction of Afghanistan and also in the protection of the country.

Question: What is the Taliban’s stand vis-à-vis India? How can India continue to play a part in the development and reconstruction of Afghanistan?

Answer: It is up to them. What is their stand vis-à-vis the people of Afghanistan. I think it is a question to be asked from them.

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