Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, one of the Taliban's top leaders, in an exclusive interview with News18, said that the insurgent group wants good relations with all neighbouring countries and the whole world.
Stanikzai, the deputy head of the Taliban's political commission and head of negotiating team with America, also claimed that Hindus and Sikhs can continue to live peacefully in Afghanistan and said there was no need to evacuate them.
Born in 1963 in the Baraki Barak district of Logar province of Afghanistan, Stanikzai is ethnically a Pashtun. He has called for 'good ties' with India and was previously a cadet at the prestigious Indian Military Academy in Uttarakhand's Dehradun where his batchmates called him 'Sheru'.
Edited excerpts of the interview with Stanikzai follow:
How do you see the Taliban's administrative view towards India?
The foreign policy of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is to have good relations with all our neighbouring countries and with the whole world. American forces were here in Afghanistan for last the 20 years. Now that they are withdrawing, we will have friendly relations with America and NATO as well. I think they should come back and take part in the rehabilitation of Afghanistan. Same goes for India. We want to establish friendly relations – cultural and economical and other ties – that we previously had. Not only with India, but with all our neighbouring countries including Tajikistan, Iran and Pakistan.
There is a fear that Taliban may be hostile to India, that they may team up with Pakistan and target India…
What comes up in media is often wrong. There is no such statement or indication from our side. We want good relations with all our neighbouring countries.
There is a fear that Afghanistan could become a sanctuary for terror groups that are a threat to India such as Lashkar and Jaish…
There was no threat from Afghanistan throughout our history to any of our neighbours including India. It will not happen. There is no doubt that there is long political and geographical dispute between India and Pakistan. We hope they do not use Afghanistan in their fight. They have a long border, they can fight among themselves on the border. They should not use Afghanistan for this and we will not let any of the countries use our land for this.
It’s a strong statement that you will not allow Lashkar or Jaish to use your territory…
This is our duty. We will not allow anyone to use the Afghan side against any country in the world.
You were trained in IMA some decades ago. Any memories of that place and your time in India…
It was during my youth. I trained there before the Russians came to Afghanistan. I was training in IMA and graduated from IMA.
Are you still in touch with those people?
No, not in India
Who do you blame for the recent Kabul attack ?
I have seen media reports that that Daesh took the responsibility for the attack.
But as per reports, intelligence suggested that the Haqqani network will execute the blasts and Islamic State will take responsibility. What do you have to say on that ?
This is what enemies of the Afghan people say. It’s completely false. It is clear that Daesh has done it since Daesh has taken responsibility.
Many Hindus and Sikhs are still in Afghanistan. Will you help India evacuate them?
I think there is no need to evacuate them. Afghanistan is their homeland. They can live here peacefully and there will be no danger to their lives. They can live as they were living before. We hope that the Hindus and Sikhs who migrated to India in the past 20 years because of the previous regime will return to Afghanistan soon.
How do you see the recognition of Taliban by the world powers and India ?
We hope for that. The ground reality is that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan will form the government and our neighbours and the other countries need to have good relations with us. When the new government is announced, we hope that all those countries who are in the region support us.
India has done a lot of development work in Afghanistan. What do you think will happen to that ?
All the developmental work done by India in Afghanistan is a national asset. We hope that in the future, India finishes all its work. We invite India to complete those projects.
And you will provide security?
Yes, if somebody is coming and working in your country then you will have to provide security. I don't think there is any need to ask such questions.