India in the loop on Taliban talks: Abdullah

India has been kept in the loop on “each and every development” in the Taliban reconciliation process, Afghanistan chief executive Abdullah Abdullah said in New Delhi on Thursday, ahead of the next round of talks in Islamabad on February 6, 2016.

In his first interview on the Pathankot attacks that occurred at the same time as the attack on the Indian mission in Mazar-e-Sharif in early January, Dr. Abdullah said he could not rule out both attacks being launched by the Jaish-e-Mohammad, but said it was “too early to make a judgement” on any link between them or to the transfer of Mi-35 helicopters by India to Afghanistan just a week prior to the attacks.

Dr. Abdullah said that the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Kabul on Christmas had “re-energised” the strategic partnership agreement (SPA) between India and Afghanistan, and the SPA commission headed by the Foreign Ministers, that hasn’t met since 2012, would meet soon to take ties forward.

In particular he said the transfer of four Mi-35 helicopters to Afghanistan had “boosted the morale and combat operations”. Significantly, Dr. Abdullah wouldn’t rule out the possibility of links between the Pathankot attack on January 2, 2016, and the assault on the Indian mission in Mazar-e-Sharif on January 3, 2016 as well as whether Pakistan-based group Jaish-e-Mohammad had carried them out in retaliation for the Indian helicopters being sent to Afghanistan. The helicopters marked the first such lethal military hardware transfer by India, and they have already been put into combat fighting terrorist groups in Helmand Province, officials said.

When asked about the possibility of any link in the two attacks, given the evidence, Dr. Abdullah said he couldn’t give a comment, but wasn’t ruling it out. “Yes, all of this evidence is available, but I cannot make that judgement, because there are two levels to this. (At one level) these terrorist groups and their aims and goals are known. But at the other, details of the attacks and any linkages must be discussed by the countries directly not in the media.”

On the subject of the Taliban talks, Dr. Abdullah said that would be “no pre-conditions for talks with the Taliban” as and when they would be resumed, holding that the only “red-lines” announced by former President Hamid Karzai, which insisted on the Taliban giving up violence and accepting the constitution were meant to be outcomes of the talks, and not pre-conditions.

“If the outcome anyway violates our constitution that is an absolute redline. If the groups want to continue links with terrorists but join the political mainstream the same time, that is an absolute red line too. Or if they want deny the rights for men and women, then that wont be allowed. But there will be no pre-conditions for talks with the Taliban,” Dr. Abdullah told The Hindu.

On the widely held perception that India has opposed talks with the Taliban, and that it was blind-sided by President Ashraf Ghani’s announcement of an intelligence partnership with the ISI, Dr. Abdullah said this was a misconception of the media.

“That’s how you see it from the outside. Within, India is kept in the loop throughout, because India has a stake in the stabilisation of the country and India has helped with stabilising Afghanistan,” he told The Hindu.

During his visit to Delhi, where Dr. Abdullah met Mr. Modi, NSA Ajit Doval and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, he discussed the upcoming meeting of the “Quadrilateral Cooperation Group” (QCG), made up of U.S., China, Pakistan and Afghanistan that are facilitating the talks with the Taliban. The meeting on Saturday is expected to lead to a resumption of the direct talks with Taliban leaders that were called off when it emerged that former leader Mullah Omar had been dead for several months, if not more.

In the interview to The Hindu, Dr. Abdullah accepted that the last round of talks with the Taliban, held in July 2015, that were abruptly called off after it emerged that Taliban chief Mullah Omar had been dead for several months were a sham, but that it was necessary to keep engaging Pakistan. “Absolutely it was (a sham)”, Dr. Abdullah said adding “but we have a problem at hand, and it doesn’t matter if we are disappointed or hopeful, we have to make the right efforts (towards reconciliation with the Taliban”.

Earlier, in a media interaction Dr. Abdullah had explained that there had been no attempt to keep India out of the QCG talks, but the countries in the Quadrilateral either “had influence over the Taliban, or influence over the situation in Afghanistan.”

While the U.S. has stayed a complete pullout from Afghanistan until the security situation improves, Pakistan for its “heavy influence over the Taliban”, and China “for its influence over Pakistan” were integral to the process, Dr. Abdullah said.

-----------------------

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/afghanistan-ceo-abdullah-abdullah-interview-india-has-been-kept-in-loop-on-taliban-talks/article8194146.ece