India’s ambassador to Qatar Deepak Mittal met a top Taliban leader on Tuesday in Doha, the foreign ministry said in a press release. This was the first official meeting between an Indian diplomat and the Taliban since the insurgent group took over Afghanistan two weeks ago.
The meeting took place on a request by the Taliban at the Indian Embassy in the Qatari capital, the ministry said.
During his talks with Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, the head of Taliban’s political office in Doha, Mittal said that Afghanistan should not be allowed to be used for “anti-Indian activities and terrorism”.
The two sides also discussed the safety and early return of Indians stranded in Afghanistan. The matter of Afghans who want to travel to India also came up during the talks, according to the foreign ministry.
“The Taliban representative assured the ambassador that these issues would be positively addressed,” the release stated.
The meeting on Tuesday came hours after the the United States on Monday completed the withdrawal of its soldiers from Afghanistan. The move marked the end of a 20-year-old war and the evacuation process of Americans and Afghans that was being carried out by the US troops.
US President Joe Biden had set an August 31 deadline for troops to exit Afghanistan.
However, the evacuation of Indians is likely to continue even after Tuesday’s exit of foreign troops from Kabul. At a press briefing last week, foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi did not give a direct reply to a question on whether the deadline would apply to India as well.
But he said: “We are in touch with various parties regarding when we can mount evacuation flights...We will share more details as we go ahead.”
The spokesperson had said that more than 550 people have so far been evacuated by the Indian government. Of these people over 260 were Indians, while others were Afghans or citizens from other countries. The numbers, Bagchi said, did not include Indian Embassy personnel who had also been evacuated.
Despite Tuesday’s meeting between Mittal and Taliban, India has remained non-committal on the question of recognising the Taliban as the legitimate government in Afghanistan. At the press briefing, Bagchi had said that it would be “jumping the gun” to take a decision on the matter at this point.