In a huge shift, India opens channels with Afghan Taliban factions and leaders

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s deputy leader and negotiator, and other delegation members attend the Afghan peace conference in Moscow in March 2021.

India has for the first time opened channels of communication with Afghan Taliban factions and leaders, including Mullah Baradar, against the backdrop of the rapid drawdown of US forces from Afghanistan, people with knowledge of the development have said.

The move marks a significant shift from New Delhi’s position of not engaging with the Afghan Taliban in any way and comes at a time when key world powers are veering around to the position that the Taliban will play some part in any future dispensation in Kabul.

The outreach is largely being led by Indian security officials and has been limited to Taliban factions and leaders that are perceived as being “nationalist” or outside the sphere of influence of Pakistan and Iran, one of the people cited above said on condition of anonymity. The outreach has been underway for some months, though it continues to be exploratory in nature, the people said.

In the case of Mullah Baradar, the co-founder of the Afghan Taliban and one of the group’s main negotiators, the first person cited above said messages were exchanged by the two sides though there was no confirmation of a meeting. There have also been conversations with other Taliban factions despite a lack of trust on both sides, the people said.

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