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Ex-envoy worried about Indian investments in Afghanistan

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KABUL: A former Indian ambassador to Afghanistan, Rakesh Sood, has said that India’s billion-dollar investments in Afghanistan including education could be at stake now that the Taliban are in power.

In an interview with Voice of America, Mr. Sood said, “We have made gargantuan investments in Afghanistan in different sectors and we have to wait and see whether the Taliban will form all-inclusive government accepted by the Afghan people.”

He said India is still talking to Taliban through their embassy in Qatar. “But, most of the Taliban diplomats have returned to Afghanistan and it is difficult to continue effective dialogue from there.”

Regarding the rule of Taliban, Sood said, “I think that we had had disagreements with Taliban before and we insist that the Afghanistan problem should be resolved through its leaders and owned by its people.”

He said negotiations between Taliban and the US in Doha back in February 2020 were never a process owned and led by Afghans. That’s why the former government in Kabul was not content, because of non-inclusion in Taliban talks. “That’s why we think Doha talks were problematic. Moreover, the Taliban had no intention to give guarantees about peace and ceasefire and we see its results now.”

He enumerated India’s support for Afghanistan during past 20 years in four categories; humanitarian aid, medical aid, infrastructure investment, and scholarships. “We established medical camps across Afghanistan. Back in early 2000s, we distributed food packages to 2,000,000 children every day. We also began infrastructure projects including roads and electricity transmission lines. We built the new Parliament of Afghanistan. We also supplied big projects run by private companies in Afghanistan. Moreover, thousands of Afghan students studied in India under our government’s sponsorship. We continued to provide financial help to 34 provinces of Afghanistan.”

“We believe that stability in Afghanistan would provide stability for India and the world. When I was in Afghanistan, people would often ask me what politician I support. I would say nobody is our favorite and we would work with politicians who will work for their people and have intentions for progress.”

“Outside Afghanistan, I often meet Afghan people. The Taliban claim that they have changed. But we are still not confident and waiting for results. Women’s education and their work have seen limitations after Taliban came to power. There are also reports of targeted killings across Afghanistan. They have also replaced women’s ministry with their own virtue ministry. They have also appointed a minister who has no problem with beating, killing and hacking of people in public,” he said.

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