Reaching out to India for the first time since taking control of Afghanistan on August 15, the head of Taliban’s political office, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, has termed New Delhi an “important country” and called for maintaining good diplomatic and economic ties.
In his 45-minute-long speech in Pashto, Stanikzai touched upon several subjects like the formation of an inclusive government and maintaining ties with regional countries like Iran, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan.
“India is a very important country in the subcontinent. We want to continue our economic and diplomatic relations with them. Our business is linked with India through Pakistan, and we want to keep that connectivity opened,” he said.
Outlining the Taliban’s plan for boosting trading ties with India, Stanikzai said the air freight corridor, which was established in 2017 to promote bilateral ties between New Delhi and Kabul bypassing Pakistan, would remain “open”.
“We give due importance to our political, economic and trade ties with India and we want these ties to continue. We are looking forward to working with India in this regard. We want these relations to continue,” Stanikzai said.
The India-Afghanistan air corridor has borne fruits for the restive country as it opened the market for their products in India. It has been one of the most lucrative air corridors Afghanistan has had with any other country.
During his speech, he also mentioned about the role of Chabahar port in Iran and extended his support for it. He said the traders should use the port, adding “there will be no barriers towards for trading through the port”.
Chabahar port has been one of the key investments for India’s westwards connectivity, especially to Afghanistan. India sees the port as the key gateway to the International North-South Transport Corridor that has sea, rail and road routes between India, Russia, Iran, Europe and Central Asia.
Stanikzai also mentioned the TAPI project— a proposed pipeline project connecting Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India—and said that the Taliban place high importance on this project.
Speaking on the government formation, the Taliban leader said consultations are on with different ethnic groups and the group is “committed to forming an Islamic government in which all people from different walks of life will be included.”
While several Taliban spokespersons—Zabiullah Mujahid and Suhail Shaheen—have mentioned about maintaining ties with India in the past, this is the first time that a top Taliban leader commander has come out in the open about forging relations with New Delhi.