India Should Talk to Taliban – Pakistan’s U.S. envoy

DESPARDES — India should speak with the Taliban if it feels that it will help the peace process, Pakistan’s envoy to Washington said on Saturday, after a series of attacks in Afghanistan raised questions about whether the U.S. peace effort may collapse.

In an interview with The Hindu, an Indian newspaper, U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said it would be “appropriate” for an India-Taliban engagement.

“It is for India to respond to that suggestion,” Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States Asad Khan told Reuters.

Asked if he was open to an Indian dialogue with the Taliban, Khan said: “If India feels that their engagement is going to help the peace process, then we would defer to their judgment. But it’s not for us to sit in judgment on what they should do or they shouldn’t do.”

He stopped short of saying he was open to an Indian engagement with the Taliban or whether Islamabad favored such a move.

However, any acquiescence by Islamabad to an Indian role could be seen in Kabul and elsewhere as a sign of growing international concern with the peace push.

Pakistan’s role in the peace negotiations is a delicate one, with Islamabad seeking to remain neutral while actively supporting the historical US-Taliban peace deal that signed in February in Doha.

Khan said that he would hopefully be speaking with Khalilzad soon and did not go by Indian media accounts, which he said in many cases are “fanciful” and give their own interpretations.

Some Pakistani observers assert that India’s role in Afghanistan has been aimed at destabilizing both the countries, through proxies.

On Friday, Khalilzad, said “the US Government has assessed ISIS-K conducted the horrific attacks on a maternity ward and a funeral earlier this week in Afghanistan”.

Through a tweet, he said “ISIS has demonstrated a pattern for favoring these types of heinous attacks against civilians and is a threat to the Afghan people and to the world”.

ISIS-K also opposes a peace agreement between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban, and seeks to encourage sectarian war as in Iraq and Syria, he added.

Reuters with additional input from DesPardes