While thanking India for its efforts in helping to rebuild his country, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani pitched for a coherent global strategy for dealing with terrorism, and hinted that his government is open to talks with Taliban.
“What is the difference between Taliban and other networks of terror? The latter have no place in our future policy if they are produced by conditions in their countries or by ideas of destabilisation. So we must deal with them,” he told journalists in the Indian capital on April 29 in response to a question on the status of talks with the Taliban.
He, however, added that there may be a role for the Taliban in Afghan policy under the country’s constitutional framework.
Underscoring that global terror networks have undergone fundamental shifts and realignments in the past year, he said that Afghanistan is fighting a war that was imposed on it and the responsibility to fight should be shouldered by all regional actors, since terrorism is a threat shared by them all. Out of the all the global terror networks active in Afghanistan he chose to highlight the threat posed by the ISIS, calling it a “man-eater like Bengal tiger”. In an apparent acknowledgement to China’s terror concerns, Ghani spoke of the danger from ETIM (East Turkistan Islamic Movement), which is a Uighur insurgent group fighting in Xinjiang province in China. “Every single one of our neighbours is threatened by these networks and ISIS at large,” he said.
His glaring omission of Al-Qaeda raised eyebrows amongst those present at the press briefing held at the red sandstone presidential palace. Despite Al Qaeda’s 2014 announcement of the launch of a wing in the subcontinent and its links with the Haqqani network, that has been sabotaging nation building efforts in Afghanistan, it did not find mention in Ghani’s denunciation of terror outfits. Perhaps it would not be too far-fetched to speculate a link between reports of furtive tripartite negotiations between the Taliban, Al Qaeda and the ISI and President Ghani’s desire to formulate a new equation with Pakistan’s military-security establishment.
Pitching Afghanistan as a narrative of opportunity, Mr Ghani also added that his country was looking at Indian investors for its prosperity and stressed that New Delhi is a part of the “five diplomatic priority circles” which include being a neighbour, having the second largest Muslim population and a top source of investment.
President Ghani’s maiden visit to India was aimed at reassuring New Delhi that it continues to be a critical part of Afghanistan’s quest for peace and prosperity amid anxieties in India’s diplomatic-strategic circles about the Afghan leader’s drift towards Pakistan and China in the last few months.
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