New Delhi: For the first time initiating a 'formal' interaction with the Taliban, India's envoy to Qatar, Deepak Mittal, on Tuesday (August 31) met Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, the head of Taliban's Political Office in Doha.
Ambassador Mittal raised India's concern that Afghanistan's soil "should not be used" for anti-Indian activities and terrorism in any manner.
"The meeting took place at the Embassy of India, Doha, on the request of the Taliban side," an MEA release said here.
The discussions focused on the safety, security, and early return of Indian nationals stranded in Afghanistan. The travel of Afghan nationals, especially minorities, who wish to visit India also came up, it said.
"The Taliban Representative assured the Ambassador that these issues would be positively addressed," the release said.
Observers note that this interaction cannot be dubbed as part of any exercise to establish diplomatic relations between the Taliban and New Delhi as the deliberations were chiefly on an urgent issue vis-à-vis the safety and security of Indians and also minority Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan.
Stanekzai had studied in the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun in the 1970s as the IMA Dehradun trains cadets from many African and Asian countries, including Afghanistan.
During the Taliban's 1996–2001 rule of Afghanistan, he served as deputy minister of foreign affairs under foreign minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil. In 1996, Stanekzai also travelled to Washington as acting foreign minister to ask the then Clinton administration to extend diplomatic recognition to 'Taliban-ruled Afghanistan'.
Stanekzai released a statement recently saying the Taliban wanted to maintain "good relations" with India.