A ‘quiet’ meeting took place earlier this month as New Delhi tries to secure its investments in Afghanistan, says analyst.
Indian officials have met and held discussions with the Taliban representatives in Doha ahead of complete withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, Qatar’s special envoy for mediation Majed Al Qahtani confirmed earlier this week.
While it was already known that New Delhi has communicated with the militia in the past, this is the first time a senior Qatari official has confirmed that a direct meeting has taken place between the two sides, according to Indian media reports.
The news comes just days after India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar made quick stopovers in Doha on June 9 and June 15 when he met senior Qatari officials and Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special envoy on Afghanistan.
“India has to be realistic. It has to come to terms with the reality that Taliban have an upper hand and they might actually come to power. Obviously New Delhi would want to protect its investments,” Ajit Singh, a New Delhi-based security analyst, told TRT World.
Doha has for years hosted the Taliban's political office and facilitated negotiations with the Americans and Afghan government of President Ashraf Ghani.
India's arch rival Pakistan, one of the three countries to recognise Taliban's rule of Afghanistan, has also played an integral role in the Afghan peace process.
India has invested billions of dollars in Afghanistan as it seeks to strengthen its role in the war-torn country.
It remains unclear how significant were the discussions between the Taliban and Indian officials or if any senior officials participated.
“I understand that there has been a quiet visit by Indian officials to speak to the Taliban,” Qahtani said during an online conference on Monday, according to The Hindu.
Taliban launch major offensive
The Taliban have carried out a wave of offensives in Afghanistan's north in recent days and captured a border crossing with Tajikistan, moving beyond their southern strongholds as international forces withdraw.
The United Nations' envoy for Afghanistan said the Taliban had taken more than 50 of 370 districts and was positioned to take control of provincial capitals.
Fierce fighting between the Taliban and Afghan government forces has taken place on the outskirts of three provincial capitals in the northern provinces of Faryab, Balkh and Kunduz provinces in recent days, officials said.
Since the United States announced plans in April to withdraw its troops with no conditions by September 11 after nearly 20 years of conflict, violence has escalated throughout the country as the Taliban seeks more territory.
The US has drastically reduced the number of its troops in Afghanistan ahead of the September withdrawal. While the Afghan forces have been fighting the Taliban on their own for a year, they can face setbacks in absence of American air cover, analysts say.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the conflict that started after the US attacked Afghanistan in 2001 and toppled the Taliban government there.