Army chief Gen. Bipin Rawat said Thursday that India should engage with the Taliban in Afghanistan, as it cannot miss out ‘on joining the bandwagon’ while countries led by the US engage with it. He made it clear, however, that the situation is different in Jammu and Kashmir.
Countries like the US, Pakistan, Iran and Russia, among others, are currently engaging with the Taliban, as part of the Western plan to pull out from the war-torn country.
Interestingly, the frank statement by Gen. Rawat contradicts India’s official stand, which is “no engagement with the Taliban”.
Last year, India had participated in the Moscow talks on Afghanistan that included the Taliban, albeit at a non-official level, by sending two former diplomats.
“We need to ask ourselves if India has interest in Afghanistan? If yes, then you cannot not join the bandwagon. If the answer is no, then sit back. We have an interest in Afghanistan,” Rawat said at his annual press conference in the national capital.
He said there are countries which feel they that they should talk to Taliban. “There is also a feeling that in Afghanistan, things have improved. There are more women in jobs… Development has happened in some of the places. People now want peace,” he said.
The Army chief clarified that he does not mean India should take the lead when it comes to talks with the Taliban, but that it needs to be on the high table at least to listen and know what is happening.
J&K is different
Asked about the possibility of talks being held with the Hurriyat and terror groups in Jammu and Kashmir, the Army chief underlined that one should not think one size fits all.
He said the situation is different in Kashmir, where violence is continuing unabated. He said the government is open to talks as long as the other side gives up violence. He specifically mentioned last year’s Ramzan ceasefire.
“If guarantee is given that our convoys aren’t attacked and our boys not abducted, then yes, we can have talks,” he said.
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti have questioned the premise.
“We bat for talks with Taliban, autonomy for Tibet and Tamil areas of Sri Lanka, yet we are unwilling to look at engagement or political initiatives in J&K. Why is our policy all about ‘do as we say, don’t do as we do’? Engagement for Taliban, Operation All-Out for Kashmir,” Omar Abdullah tweeted.
Urging the Centre to initiate talks with Kashmiri separatists, Mehbooba Mufti said in her tweet: “If the Army chief can advocate for talks with the Taliban then why different standards when it comes to our own people? Accept peace offer from Pakistan, initiate dialogue with Hurriyat and other stakeholders put an end to the vicious cycle of violence in J&K.”