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Why did India open a backchannel to the Taliban?

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In a crucial policy shift, India recently acknowledged that it entered into backchannel communications with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

In early June, the Indian media reported that New Delhi has started talking to certain factions and leaders of the armed group against the backdrop of the withdrawal of the United States forces from Afghanistan. A few days later, India’s Ministry of External Affairs all but confirmed these reports, stating that “we are in touch with various stakeholders … in pursuance of our long-term commitment towards development and reconstruction of Afghanistan”.

The Taliban’s Quetta-based leadership and Qatari officials have also confirmed these backchannel meetings.

Until recently, India has been reluctant to openly communicate with the Taliban because it feared that such a move could damage its relations with the Afghan government and its powerful regional and global backers. While Indian intelligence officials have occasionally connected with Taliban fighters to protect India’s interests over the years, most notably in 2011 to secure the release of kidnapped Indian engineers and personnel working in Afghanistan, New Delhi always refrained from establishing a permanent communication channel with the group.

It viewed the Taliban as nothing but a proxy for its main regional rival, Pakistan, and believed that it had little to gain from directly engaging the group. Moreover, New Delhi did not want to compromise its official policy of not talking to any “militant groups” by entering into a dialogue with the Taliban, as it........

© Al Jazeera

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