08/30/2021, 16.18
AFGHANISTAN – INDIA
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Taliban wooing India with trade

In a televised interview, a Taliban leader suggests that trade with India could go through Pakistan. India pulled out its diplomatic personnel from Afghanistan but with 20 years of investments and US$ 900 million in exports at stake, it is holding a wait-and-see position. New Delhi is worried about jihadist infiltrations in Kashmir. New rockets fall in Kabul this morning. Local media say that children were among the victims of yesterday's US raid.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Under the Taliban, Afghanistan plans to maintain close relations with India, based on trade and economic ties, said Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, a senior Taliban leader and current head of the Taliban's political office in Doha (Qatar) in an interview with Pakistani TV.

In addition to hoping that air links with India remain open, Stanikzai also hinted at the possible opening of a land trade route through Pakistan. This comes after a recent report indicate that the Taliban are seeking to keep channels open with India.

Unlike Russia and China, India withdrew its diplomatic personnel from Afghanistan, as did Western countries. Nevertheless, the Modi government remains in a wait-and-see position.

After joining the policy of isolating the Taliban between 1996 and 2001, seen as a tool of Pakistan, India invested heavily in Afghanistan’s reconstruction when the latter’s government was supported by the international coalition. Over the years, New Delhi invested more than US$ 3 billion to build dams, roads, power lines, and telecommunications.

Inaugurated in 2016, the Salma or India-Afghanistan friendship dam, in Herat province, symbolises India’s involvement. India also built Afghanistan’s parliament building in Kabul, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurating it.

For India, this brought a windfall in trade. In 2019-2020, bilateral trade was worth almost US$ 1.5 billion with Indian exports reaching about US$ 900 million, including pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, computers and related materials, and cement.

Trade grew despite the lack of an easy land route, hindered by Pakistan. To get around this, Indian authorities set up an air corridor to Kabul and Herat, and focused heavily on the port of Chabahar in Iran, as a link to Afghan territory.

Now the Taliban seem to want to continue along the same path. But the political situation remains an issue. New Delhi is still concerned that Afghanistan could again become a sanctuary for jihadist groups that operate in India.

The Kashmir question is at the top of the list. To deal with it, the Modi government restricted the autonomy of the country’s only Muslim-majority state which borders with Pakistan.

Meanwhile, the US military continues its the evacuation operations, which should end tomorrow.

In Kabul some rockets landed near the airport this morning. According to local media, five rockets were fired from the back of a vehicle and intercepted by an anti-missile system, but the shrapnel fell on houses in the area.

Yesterday, US forces carried a drone attack against a suspected suicide bomber. Local media report that several children and an entire family were among the victims. As a consequence, US authorities announced an investigation into the incident.

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