Reacting to the Indian leader's speech at Heart of Asia conference, Ambassador Zamir Kabulov, the veteran Russian diplomat attending the Amritsar conference, said as follows: “We understand all concerns of India about your western neighbor (Pakistan)…But we cannot combat (terrorism) efficiently and productively and eliminate (it) without the cooperation of Pakistan. We need their cooperation and they should realize their importance and responsibility.”
Russian Policy Shift on Taliban:
Ambassador Kabulov has described the Taliban as a “predominantly a national military-political movement”. “It is local, Afghanistan-based. They believe that they should have, from their perspective, fair share in the government of Afghanistan…They should talk and deal in their local context”. But Daesh (ISIS) “as an international organization is really dangerous”. “If you recall, young Taliban under the influence of Al-Qaeda in 1994, their rhetoric was very similar to today’s Daesh rhetoric”.
Mr. Kabulov's comments reveal the following conclusions that underpin the Russian policy shift in South Asia region:
1. Moscow now believes that the presence of ISIS (Daesh) in Afghanistan is a much bigger threat to Russia's soft underbelly in the former Soviet republics of Central Asia.
2. The Afghan Taliban are an effective force to check the growth and spread of ISIS in Central and South Asian nations.
3. Pakistan's cooperation is critical to help defeat ISIS in the region.
Russian Warning to India:
Russia believes that blunting ISIS in Afghanistan is a much bigger project than stopping the Taliban.
Here's what Kabulov said: “Some people may say, and I remember some Indian officials in the recent past were believing that Daesh is something which is not an immediate threat to India as it’s an Afghanistan maybe Central Asia or Orient problem, but not India. But now, your leadership realized that Daesh is bigger than the Afghan branch of Syria-Iraq Daesh, it’s an international network which is not centralized. A centralized ideology but not organization."
Kabulov said that India had to be alert as Daesh is often active where there is a large Muslim population. “They (ISIS) will spread themselves all over. We see first signs of Daesh in Bangladesh. You have very big Muslim community in your country which is maybe target of Daesh. That makes the risk of threat common for all of us. It is better to deal and cope with this issue when it’s small. Don’t wait for it to become big”.
Iran's Support of the Taliban:
Iranian official have not acknowledged their cooperation with the Afghan Taliban. However, frequent Iran visits of former Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor came to light when he was killed in a US drone strike on May 21, 2016.
According to various media reports, Mansoor's passport indicated that he had been in Iran since April 26, 2016. He had also traveled there for several weeks in February and March of 2016.
Pakistan's Support of the Afghan Taliban:
General David Petraeus, former CIA director and commander of US troops in Afghanistan, has said there is no evidence of Pakistan playing a double game and supporting terrorists in Afghanistan. Petraeus' remarks are now particularly significant given the fact that he is on a short list of President-Elect Donald Trump's nominees for Secretary of State. He was answering a question posed to him at a presentation at Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), a British security think tank based in London.
Gen Petraeus did acknowledge that "there's communication between the ISI and various militant groups in FATA and Balochistan (Haqqanis, Taliban, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, etc) but some of it you'd do anyway as an intelligence service." He added that "there may be some degree of accommodation that is forced on them (Pakistanis) because of the limits of their (Pakistan's) forces."
US has accused Russia and Iran of supporting the Afghan Taliban. Russia has rejected Indian and Afghan criticism of Pakistan at the recent Heart of Asia conference in Amritsar. Ambassador Zamir Kabulov has warned India that the spread of ISIS presents a much bigger threat to Afghanistan and South Asia region than the Afghan Taliban. He has said Pakistan's cooperation is critical in defeating ISIS in the region.
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