S. Jaishankar’s stopover in Qatar comes amidst reports that India has for the first time opened channels of communication with Afghan Taliban leaders, including Mullah Baradar
Qatar's capital Doha has been the venue for the peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan government representatives
Indian foreign minister S. Jaishankar on Tuesday stopped over in the Qatari capital Doha for his second visit in a week and held talks with his counterpart Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani.
Jaishankar met the Qatari minister, who also holds the post of deputy prime minister, on his way back home from a three day visit to Kenya. The minister visited the east African country after completing a three day visit to Kuwait.
"Good to meet DPM & FM @MBA_AlThani of Qatar in Doha today. Appreciated Qatar's solidarity during the Covid second wave. Discussed our bilateral cooperation and exchanged views on regional issues," Jaishankar said in Twitter post.
Last week, on his way to Kuwait, Jaishankar had stopped over in Doha on 9 June when he had met Qatar's national security advisor Mohamed Bin Ahmed Al Mesned and thanked him for the Gulf nation's support and solidarity in India’s fight against the covid-19 pandemic. France had airlifted oxygen containers to Qatar that where filled up and the containers transported to India as the country grappled with a brutal second wave of covid-19 infections.
"A pleasure to meet Qatari NSA Mohamed Bin Ahmed Al Mesned. Appreciate his insights on developments in the region and beyond. Thanked him for his support and solidarity in India’s fight against covid," the minister had said in a Twitter post.
The stop over in Qatar is also being seen as significant given that Doha has been the venue for the peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan government representatives. US special envoy on Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad is also a regular visitor to Doha given that the Taliban have their political office there.
Jaishankar’s stopover comes amid reports that India has for the first time opened channels of communication with Afghan Taliban leaders, including Mullah Baradar. This comes against the backdrop of the US pulling out its troops from Afghanistan well ahead of a 11 September deadline for the US –led forces to depart the country after an almost two decade long stay there.
Last week, the Indian foreign ministry did not deny the reports of the contacts between India and the Taliban, seen as backed and controlled by New Delhi’s arch rival Pakistan. Indian foreign ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi said that India is in contact with “various stakeholders" in Afghanistan “in pursuance of our long-term commitment towards development and reconstruction of Afghanistan."
India had previously refused to hold direct talks with the Taliban leadership, which has been accused of facilitating terror attacks along with groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad on Indian missions in Afghanistan. New Delhi was also known to be in touch with leaders in Afghanistan who had lines of communication open with the Taliban, but were never in direct contact with the hardline group.
However, analysts say the evolving situation in Afghanistan—the departure of US troops and it becoming clear that the Taliban will be part of a government in Kabul—could have resulted in a rethink on the part of New Delhi. That the Afghan government itself was holding talks with the Taliban may also have aided the rethink on the part of New Delhi, they say.
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