Indian Ambassador to Qatar Deepak Mittal met with the head of the Taliban’s political office, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, in Doha on Tuesday in the first official encounter between the Indian government and the Taliban since the jihadist terror group seized control of Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 15.
“Discussions focused on safety, security and early return of Indian nationals stranded in Afghanistan. The travel of Afghan nationals, especially minorities, who wish to visit to India also came up [sic],” India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said of the meeting in a statement issued August 31.
“Afghanistan’s soil should not be used for anti-Indian activities and terrorism in any manner,” Ambassador Mittal expressed to the Taliban, according to the MEA press release. Stanekzai “assured” Mittal the issues raised during their meeting would be “positively addressed.”
Stanekzai has historic ties to India, as he “trained and graduated out of the Indian Military Academy at Dehradun,” according to the Hindu, an Indian news publication. Dehradun is a northern Indian city located near the Himalayan foothills. Stanekzai released a statement on August 28 “calling for India to continue its political and trade ties with Afghanistan, and pursue connectivity projects,” the Hindu recalled on Tuesday.
Ambassador Mittal’s reference on Tuesday to religious “minorities” hoping to evacuate to India comes just one week after the Times of India reported on August 24 that Afghan Sikhs and Hindus attempting to flee Kabul were turning down offers from New Delhi to fly to India. The religious minorities were instead choosing to wait for unguaranteed opportunities to evacuate to the United States and Canada.
“About 140 Indians and members of the Sikh minority still remain in Kabul, and need to be brought back,” the Hindu revealed on August 31. “India has thus far transported 565 people, including 112 Afghan nationals to Delhi.”
The governments of several nations, including that of India, have been attempting to evacuate their citizens from Kabul since the Taliban’s takeover of the city on August 15. The terror organization deposed Kabul’s U.S.-backed government and declared full control over Afghanistan, sparking a grand exodus nationwide. Many people in the country fear the Taliban’s resurgent rule, as the hardline Sunni group previously governed Afghanistan from 1996-2001 through sharia, or Islamic law. Non-Muslims remaining in Afghanistan face the prospect of discriminatory rule by the Taliban.