Let's talk to Taliban, but with no preconditions, says Army Chief Bipin Rawat

Bipin Rawat says dialogue must be in interest of India, Pakistan and other regional players

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Let's talk to Taliban, but with no preconditions, says Army Chief Bipin Rawat
Army Chief Bipin Rawat at Parliament House in New Delhi on Wednesday

Army Chief General Bipin Rawat has said that "there should be talks with the Taliban" but without any preconditions.

Speaking at the 4th Raisina Dialogue, he said talks with the Taliban should happen "so long as they don't come with a precondition and so long as they look at lasting peace in Afghanistan and bring about stability in the country" and this is "in our interest, in the region's interest and it's in Pakistan's interest. We all want stability."

On Pakistan's engagement with Afghanistan, Rawat said, "Pakistan has always treated Afghanistan as its backyard and they have been always concerned about it. And as a military leader, why not? They have to be concerned about the backyard. They will always want a military situation in Afghanistan, which is more favourable to them. Even if it implies speaking to the devil. They will know it."

Explaining, Bipin Rawat said, "But then when you talk to terrorists or any organisation of that kind, you have to talk without preconditions. There cannot be preconditions attached to it. When you start attaching preconditions, then it gives the notion of victory, that one or the other side is talking from the position of victory. Any negotiation you go for must not be from that point of view."

The comments come even as US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad is in India, his first visit to New Delhi, after taking over the post.

The State Department, announcing his India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and China visit, said, "During his last trip in December, Special Representative Khalilzad reiterated that the only solution to the conflict is for all parties to sit together and reach an agreement on the political future of Afghanistan with mutual respect and acceptance."

India's official policy on the Afghan peace process is that it should be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, and Afghan-controlled and with the participation of the government of Afghanistan. While "no engagement with Taliban" remains the official policy of New Delhi when it comes to dealing with the group.

Last year, India had participated in the Moscow talks on Afghanistan in which the Taliban also took part. India participated at a non-official level sending two former diplomats — Amar Sinha, India's former envoy to Afghanistan, and TCA Raghavan.

Recently, Iran said India can use its offices to talk to the Taliban. Top Iranian government sources told WION, "We have our channels with Taliban. If (India) wishes to use those channels, you are welcome." But Iran does consider Taliban a threat, with Iranian sources saying, "A Taliban-dominated Afghanistan is a security threat to Iran and India, but an existential threat to Pakistan. We discussed this with late Pakistan PM Benazir Bhutto. We told them this will be your menace."

Indian External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj met Iran's Foreign Minister M Javad Zarif on Wednesday. In the 40-minute talk, the Iranian side briefed India about Tehran's talks with the Taliban. Iran had a brief dialogue with Taliban in Moscow and the first round of talks took place in Tehran, last week. Iran, US, Russia and Pakistan all are having talks with the Taliban at some level and have acknowledged it.

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