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India, Iran and Russia go into a huddle to tackle return of the Taliban in Afghanistan

India, Iran and Russia go into a huddle to tackle return of the Taliban in Afghanistan

India, Iran and Russia—three old friends wary of the rise of extremism at their doorstep—are now in deep conversation to tackle the fallout of Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan.

India’s Deputy National Security Advisor Pankaj Saran, is spending quality time in Moscow to make sure that India and Russia—trusted partners for decades—are on the same page on Taliban ruled Afghanistan.

Three points stand out in the discussion between India, Russia and Iran, insiders told India Narrative.

First, India and Russia want to work out a common formulation, which will become the basis, if at all,  for recognising the Taliban government in Kabul. India, which has been a frontrunner in the anti-terror global campaign can simply not switch its position on the Taliban overnight. “The Taliban would have to be de-listed first as a terror outfit by the UN Security council, before a country like India even thinks about changing its mind on the extremist group,” a person aware of the developments said.

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Second, all three countries fully agree that neither of them can afford to see the return of  Afghanistan as the hub of global terrorism, wreaking havoc in Central Asia, Middle East and South Asia.

Third, the three countries are also evaluating the potential of the new banner of the resistance that is rising from the Panjshir valley, led by Ahmad Massood, the son of the legendary commander the late Ahmad Shah Massood and the former first Vice President, Amrullah Saleh.

The Russians and the Iranians had opened a track with the Taliban many years ago, and therefore are in a good position to engage with the group, though that does not mean that they are in a hurry to recognise it .

For Iran, the late Al Quds force commander, Qasem Suleimani, who was killed in a drone strike by the Americans in January 2020, was the Chief architect for Iran’s outreach to the Taliban.

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“…General Qasem Soleimani believed that the Taliban continued to have popular support among a significant segment of the Pashtun tribes and populations in southern Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan, and he felt that the only path to long-term regional stability was for all the parties to engage in dialogue,” writes Seyed Mohammad Marandi, a Tehran University Professor in the website…

Soleimani,l Marandi says that the Taliban was “the only force that was prepared to significantly drive up the cost of the US-led occupation, a key strategic Iranian objective…” , was the Taliban.

“He knew that under such circumstances the occupation of both Iraq and Afghanistan would gradually become extremely problematic and unpopular in western countries and that ultimately, such a huge burden would hit western economies hard and force them to withdraw their forces from both countries.”

Russia’s special envoy on Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov  has made it plain  that  "the Russian leadership will make a decision on recognizing the regime of the Taliban movement, depending on how responsibly they will govern the country".

"No one is going to hurry in this regard. The recognition or the non-recognition will depend on the behaviour of the new authorities. We will watch closely how responsibly they will govern the country in the near future. Following these results, the Russian leadership will make the necessary conclusions," the Russian diplomat said.

A Moscow based insider told India Narrative that the Russians did not anticipate that the Taliban would mount such a rapid advance. He pointed out that Russia is really worried that the largely secular governments of Central Asia, with active and extensively networked pro-Taliban insurgents,  have been put on notice. “The Taliban victory can also  inflame radical elements, who have been quashed by Russia's extensive use of military force,  in  Chechnya, Dagestan and elsewhere,” he said.

“Iran isn’t naive, but doing what it can to prevent tragedy is a responsibility. If that doesn’t work, the Quds Force will vehemently support those resisting extremism and terrorism,” says Marandi of Tehran University.

In Moscow, Saran called on Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov and discussed Afghanistan amongst other issues.

“Dy. NSA Amb. Pankaj Saran called on the Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia H.E. Mr. Igor #Morgulov. Both sides endorsed the strength of the Special & Privileged Strategic Partnership; discussed regional and international challenges including #Afghanistan,” the Indian Embassy in Moscow tweeted.

Saran also met the Secretary of the Russian National Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev and Deputy Secretary, Alexander Venediktov .

“Visit of Dy NSA Amb. Pankaj Saran to Moscow: meeting with Secretary of Russian National Security Council H.E. Mr. Nikolai Patrushev & Dy Secretary of the Russian Security Council H.E. Mr. Alexander Venediktov; discussions covered regional & international issues incl. #Afghanistan,” India in Moscow said in a separate tweet.