New Delhi: 

Army Chief General Bipin Rawat today said if a number of countries were talking to the Taliban, and if India has an interest in Afghanistan, then “we should also join the bandwagon”. He asserted, however, that the same analogy cannot apply to Jammu and Kashmir. The army chief was addressing his annual press conference.

“Do we have an interest in Afghanistan? If, yes, then we can’t be out of the bandwagon… Should we in some way be a part of the talks? We should not be left out,” the Army Chief said.

India’s official policy has always been “no engagement with the Taliban”. Countries including the US, Russia, Iran and Pakistan have been talking with the Taliban.

The official “peace and reconciliation process” in Afghanistan involves talks with the Taliban to bring it into the Afghan political mainstream. India’s support to the process was on the condition that it should be within the framework of Afghanistan’s constitution and should be “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned”.

Last year, India had participated in the Moscow talks on Afghanistan, in which the Taliban also took part. India participated at a non-official level, sending two former diplomats.

Asked to respond to the argument that the same principle can be applied to Jammu and Kashmir, General Bipin Rawat demurred: “There can be no third party intervention in Kashmir.”

Former Jammu and Kashmir chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti have questioned the premise.

“We bat for talks with Taliban, autonomy for Tibet and Tamil areas of Sri Lanka, yet we are unwilling to look at engagement or political initiatives in J&K. Why is our policy all about “do as we say, don’t do as we do”? Engagement for Taliban, Operation All-Out for Kashmir,” Omar Abdullah tweeted.

Urging the centre to initiate talks with Kashmiri separatists, Mehbooba Mufti said in her tweet: “If the Army Chief can advocate for talks with the Taliban then why different standards when it comes to our own people? Accept peace offer from Pakistan, initiate dialogue with Hurriyat and other stakeholders put an end to the vicious cycle of violence in J&K.”


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