There should be talks with the Taliban: Army chief Bipin Rawat

Army chief Bipin Rawat. Photograph:( ANI )

WION New Delhi, Delhi, India Jan 09, 2019, 04.23 PM (IST) Siddhant Sibal

Army chief General Bipin Rawat has said that "there should be talks with Taliban" but without any preconditions. Speaking at the fourth Raisina Dialogue in Delhi, he said talks with Taliban should happen "so long they don't come with a precondition and so long they look at lasting peace in Afghanistan and bring about stability in the country" and this is "in our interest, in 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, Rawat said, "But then when you talk to terrorists or any organisation of that kind, you have to talk without precondition. There cannot be precondition attached to it. When you start attaching preconditions, then it gives the notion that one or the other side is talking from the position of victory. Any negotiation you go in for must be from that point of view."

Also read: Terrorism becoming new form of warfare, says Army chief Bipin Rawat

Rawat's comments came even as the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, is in India, his first visit to New Delhi after taking over the post. 

Announcing his India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and China visit, the US State Department had 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. 

"No engagement with the Taliban" remains the official policy of New Delhi when it comes to dealing with the group.

India had however participated last year 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. 

Iran recently said India could 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." 

Iran does however consider the Taliban a threat. 

"A Taliban-dominated Afghanistan is security threat to Iran, India but an existential threat to Pakistan," the Iranian government sources said. "We discussed this with late Pakistan PM Bhutto. We told them this will be your menace."

Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj met Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Wednesday. During their 40-minute talk, the Iranian side briefed India about Tehran's talks with the Taliban.

Iran had a brief dialogue with the Taliban in Moscow and their first round of talks took place in Tehran last week. Iran, the US, Russia, and Pakistan all are holding talks with the Taliban at some level and have acknowledged it. 

Story highlights

Rawat added that any talks with the Taliban should have no preconditions. While India took part at a non-official level in the Moscow talks with the Taliban, New Delhi's official policy of dealing with the group is 'no engagement with the Taliban'.