The Taliban government will not be hostile to India, says the senior leader of an independent group that has been mediating between the Taliban and the political group that headed the earlier Afghan government.
“Pakistan has been supporting the Afghan Taliban, and earlier they supported the Mujahideen, but when Afghans form their own government, they will appreciate their neighbours’ support, but they won’t become their puppets,” Abdul Malik Niazi, Chair of the Independent Peace Council of Afghanistan tells CNBC-TV18.
Niazi concedes that the Pakistan government “would have some influence on the current Afghan government.” But, he said, “if they want to use that against the Indian government, that won’t happen.”
Afghans, he said, will want to keep good relations with all countries including India and Pakistan. “We will not want Pakistan to dictate to us what to do and what not to do. We want our independence, we have kept our independence.”
The recent years have been evidence of that, Niazi says. “The United States was there with 42 countries in Afghanistan, they tried to influence Afghans, and that didn’t work. So any Pakistani interference or force will not push us to stand against India. India is our best friend - it has always been, and it will be in the future.”
Niazi says he has definite indications that it will now be a changed Taliban.
“We hope the Taliban have changed from the time they were in power before,” he says. “As far as I know, and as far as I have been talking to them, they say they have changed, they are no longer those Taliban, they will have a unity government in Afghanistan, everybody will be represented, they will have no animosity with any neighbouring or other countries,” he added.
Niazi says he has not slept several nights worrying about the new situation that has developed. “We have had so many revolutions, and wars, so much fighting, the Russian invasion, then the US came in, and now this.”
Afghans are learning to cope with the new storm that the arrival of the Taliban government has created, he says, adding, “We have always been in the centre of a new storm, a storm anyway, be it new or old. But we are hopeful the situation will change.”
Afghans living abroad are deeply worried in their own way. “There is no doubt that every single Afghan is worried about the situation in Afghanistan and the sudden change that happened,” Niazi says.
One immediate line of reassurance is that communications remain open and clear. Niazi says he has been speaking regularly with his mother visiting Afghanistan, and nobody is reporting any violence or unrest.
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But, that still will mean a worry for Afghan students abroad particularly, thinking whether they will be able to sustain their studies or return when they want to a country they could live and work normally in.
“Afghan students studying in the UK will be worried whether they will still have the scholarships they have been granted, whether their visas remain valid,” he says. “But I’m hopeful that the government of the United Kingdom will consider the situation and won’t stop any scholarships or funds.”
Anxious students confronted with images of desperate crowds at Kabul airport to get out are fearful whether they can ever go back, and whether they would be allowed to stay on in the UK in case they do not wish to risk their return. Several students are already reported to be enquiring about seeking asylum.
“Students will not want that but if they have no choice and can’t go back, then obviously they have the right to claim asylum,” Niazi says. “If the crisis deepens they may apply for asylum but so far we don’t know, the situation may improve.”
Early signs have been encouraging, he says. “The Taliban are inviting all employees back to their offices, and if that happens I’m sure everything will be all right.”
Those seen clinging on to aircraft taking off or scaling the walls of Kabul airport to get in are believed by many to be those who worked for the British or US governments. By extension, those studying abroad may also be seen to be in the lap of the UK and the US. Afghans abroad, just as much as Afghans within the country, are looking out for more signs of reassurance and stability.
— London Eye is a weekly column by CNBC-TV18’s Sanjay Suri, which gives a peek at business-as-unusual from London and around.
(Edited by : Kanishka Sarkar)