ISLAMABAD: Pakistan denied on Sunday that its envoy to Washington had said that India should engage with the Taliban, after Reuters quoted Ambassador Asad Khan in a news report.
On Saturday, a Reuters report headline stated: “India should talk to Taliban if Delhi feels it will bolster peace push,” and attributed the statement to the Pakistani ambassador.
“The ambassador did not say what the news headline implies. Pakistan’s views on India’s role are well known,” Pakistan Foreign Office spokeswoman, Aisha Farooqui, told Arab News.
Pakistan and India have been to war three times since they won independence from the British in 1947. Over the years, Pakistan has gained influence over the Taliban.
“The Pakistani envoy has not said that they (India and the Taliban) should engage. Rather, he was saying it is their (India’s) decision,” Farooqui said. “Even the Taliban have expressed their viewpoint on the subject.”
“This is the time to focus on the earliest commencement of intra-Afghan negotiations rather than dwell on any extraneous issue,” she said.
A Reuters news report attributed the quote to Ambassador Asad Khan on Saturday.
Earlier, in an interview with the Indian newspaper The Hindu, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad had said an India-Taliban engagement would be “appropriate.”
When asked to respond to the statement, Ambassador Khan told Reuters: “It is for India to respond to that suggestion.”
“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,” Reuters further quoted the ambassador.
On Sunday, in a separate interview with Azam, an Afghan media outlet, the Taliban lashed out at New Delhi and accused it of playing a “negative role” in Afghanistan.
Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, deputy head of the Taliban’s political office in Qatar and head of the negotiating team with the US, was quoted as saying: “If the Indian government wants to take positive steps in the Afghan peace process and in rebuilding a new Afghanistan, we are counting on it.”
He went on to say that for 40 years in Afghanistan, India had “played a negative role and maintained economic, military and political ties with a ‘corrupt’ group instead of the nation.”
Pakistan’s former ambassador to Washington, Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhary, told Arab News that New Delhi had no constructive role to play in the Afghanistan peace process.
“India has no political role in Afghanistan. They have played a negative role there to harm Pakistan,” he said. “Americans want to give India some role but it is unlikely that the Taliban will accept it in any capacity.”