Russia, India can help in reviving intra-Afghan dialogue: Russian Special Representative Zamir Kabulov

Russian presidential envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov. File

Russian presidential envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov. File
| Photo Credit: AP

Russia and India can play a role in reviving the “intra-Afghan dialogue” if the Taliban requests such assistance, said the Russian Special Representative for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov in an exclusive interview with The Hindu.

Mr. Kabulov, who is the longest-serving Kremlin official in Afghanistan, said the Taliban’s counter-terror measures are “insufficient” but they deserve “tribute” and that the regional countries are willing to help the Taliban defeat the security threats. He further said it is not correct for the United Nations to allow the representative of the previous Afghan government to continue to occupy the chair of the Permanent Representative of Afghanistan at the United Nations.

“I hope that the Taliban will learn from the mistakes made by the former President [Ghani] and from its previous experience in 1996-2001. How to find a solution – through broadly representative intra-Afghan consultations, a Loya Jirga or something else – is up to the Afghan people themselves to decide. Russia is ready to provide necessary assistance in this regard if such a signal comes from Kabul. We are convinced that India’s role in it will also be required,” said Mr. Kabulov in a written response to questions sent by The Hindu. He said the Taliban did participate in the Moscow Format talks in November 2018 showing “commitment to peace” and blamed President Ghani for not launching “a productive political process which was supposed to incorporate the Taliban in governmental structures”. 

Mr. Kabulov gave a broad impression of Russia’s position regarding the Taliban and said, “The objective reality is that the Taliban controls almost all the territory of Afghanistan. An interim government has been formed, and it is functioning.” From the Russian point of view, the forces that are opposing the Taliban “are not competitive”.

Zamir Kabulov, who has been engaging the Taliban, especially under the multilateral Moscow format of consultations, believes the Taliban are not homogenous and there are various shades of opinions within the outfit about issues like education for women. “For example, according to the available information, in some northern provinces, the Taliban authorities are more well disposed to the issue of access to education for girls than in other ones, e.g. in the South.”

The veteran Russian negotiator believes that there is a possibility of the spread of terrorism from Afghanistan to neighbouring countries and that there is a foreign angle to some of the recent incidents of terrorism that were aimed at sharpening existing fault lines within the Afghan society. “We see that the Taliban forces are doing a serious job to fight the ISIS and other terrorist groups in the country, although they are still far from solving the problem as a whole,” said Mr. Kabulov, adding, “it is worth paying tribute to the counter-terrorism measures taken by the Taliban government, but we believe them to be insufficient.”

He, however, cautioned that terrorist groups like the ISIS, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Jamaat Ansarullah are active in the north and the east and other parts of Afghan territory. Mr. Kabulov argued that attacks by the ISIS targeting minorities in Afghanistan have external fingerprints.

“It is true that representatives of religious or ethnic minorities often become victims of terrorist attacks, first of all by the ISIS. Explosions took place in Shiah areas and near a Sikh Gurudwara… We should realise who benefits from it, and then we will see who stands behind it. As a rule, organisers of such resonant acts of terrorism are traced beyond the territory of Afghanistan,” said Mr. Kabulov who also served as the Ambassador of Moscow to Afghanistan during 2004-’09, a particularly violent phase in the recent Afghan history.

He argued that the Taliban representatives have already begun to participate in international meetings representing Afghanistan like the 3 rd meeting of the Moscow Format Consultations (October 20, 2021), the Tunxi Initiative of the Neighbouring Countries of Afghanistan (March 31, 2022) and the Tashkent International Conference (July 25-26, 2022), and said Russia considers it “inappropriate if the position of the Permanent Representative of Afghanistan is further occupied by Mr. (Naseer Mohammed) Faiq, since he neither represents the interests of the current Afghan authorities nor the former regime.” He further pointed out that Mr. Faiq supported the March 2, 2022 UNGA resolution against Russia on the war in Ukraine and said his position ignored “traditional principles of the Afghani foreign policy.”

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