New Delhi: An effort by a section of politicians and so-called intellectual liberals, known for their leanings, to push the Indian government to recognise and have greater engagement with the Taliban has been flayed caustically.
"Mr Kulkarni (Sudheendra), you want to send the Indian embassy back to Kabul. Who looks after the security of Kabul, the Haqani group. They attacked the Indian embassy last year, killed 30 Indians. I know it does not matter to you, you are lofty. You are beyond all this. We are ordinary Indians who get killed," an angry Maj Gen (Retd) Gagandeep Bakshi said, participating in a debate on TimesNow.
In 1999-2000, he said the Indian government was forced to release terrorist Masood Azhar, the chief of Jaish-e-Mohammed. Similar things can happen even now if the terror groups take Indian embassy staffers hostage. "Can you wake up to reality…," he thundered, adding, "please listen to your soldiers, we have fought for this country."
The angry outbursts came in reference to an Appeal by Sudheendra Kulkarni and 11 others, including former foreign ministers Natwar Singh and Yashwant Sinha and diplomat-turned-Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar. The letter, among other things, stressed that India should "continue to engage with the Taliban".
The 'appeal' communique welcomed India's envoy to Qatar, Deepak Mittal, meeting Taliban representative in Doha on August 31 and said: "there should be no discrimination on grounds of religion in providing shelter to Afghans who have been forced to leave their country". The 'appeal' signatories include Julio Reberio (a former cop) and Najeeb Jung (former Lt. Governor of Delhi), Saeed Naqvi (writer), former diplomat KC Singh, Gandhian Sandeep Pandey, former MPs Majeed Memon and Shahid Siddiqui. They also say: "No country in the region should be excluded from, nor isolate itself from collaborative efforts to bring peace in Afghanistan and promote national reconciliation."
A visibly disturbed Maj Gen (Retd) Bakshi said, "Why are you (to those who wrote the Appeal) putting Indian lives (at risk) by giving them away so cheap." He, however, said interacting with the Taliban for a limited role to bring back stranded Indians from Afghanistan was okay. Still, he was against the idea of a greater engagement or giving recognition to the Taliban. Asserting that the Taliban are not the ones to be influenced positively by Gandhian philosophy, Bakshi said, "You want to spin Charkha to them, please try it."
Ever since the high speed with which the Taliban took control of things in Afghanistan long before the US withdrew the forces, 'sickular' elements in India have been pushing the government to recognise the Taliban. "Spin the Charkha, while Indians die….," Bakshi said.
In the meeting with Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, the head of Taliban's Political Office in Doha, on August 31, Ambassador Deepak Mittal raised India's concern that Afghanistan's soil "should not be used" for anti-Indian activities and terrorism in any manner.
The 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 India also came up. "The Taliban Representative assured the Ambassador that these issues would be positively addressed," an MEA release said.