‘Old wine in new bottle, strong Pakistani imprint’: Ex-Indian diplomats on new Afghanistan Govt
   Date :09-Sep-2021

Natwar Singh_1  
TERMING the new interim Government in Afghanistan as “old wine in a new bottle”, former Indian diplomats on Wednesday said the Cabinet formed in Kabul has dispelled “myths” of Taliban 2.0, and asserted that it has a strong Pakistani imprint on it which is a “cause of concern” for India. The Taliban on Tuesday unveiled a hardline interim Government led by Mullah Mohammad Hasan Akhund, with key roles being shared by high-profile members of the insurgent group, including Sirajuddin Haqqani, a designated global terrorist of the dreaded Haqqani Network with a USD 10 million US bounty on his head, as the interior minister. Former External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh, ex-diplomats Meera Shankar, Anil Wadhwa and Vishnu Prakash noted that the new Government had extremist elements and India must continue with its “wait and watch” approach going forward. Rakesh Sood, a former Indian envoy to Afghanistan, said the interim government announced in Kabul dispels any myth about a Taliban 2.0.
”This is clearly the same as Taliban 1.0 with ISI fingerprints all over it,” he asserted. Shankar, who served as India’s Ambassador to the United States between 2009 and 2011, said one would have to wait and see what the development means for India in terms of the policies that the Taliban adopt. “But it does not appear promising and indeed there is cause for concern because it seems to be old wine in a new bottle because many of the players who have been appointed are the same (that were there in the previous Taliban regime),” she told PTI. Wadhwa, who served as Secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affairs before retiring in 2017, said it was quite expected that the government will not be an ‘inclusive’ government as people expected it to be.
“The Taliban factions have found their own balance and the extremist elements are prevalent there; the others are sidelined, so basically the Doha faction has been sidelined. To have expected an inclusive government for an outfit like this especially when Pakistan is playing a very strong hand was not really up to reality,” he told PTI. Echoing similar views on keeping a channel of communication open, Prakash, who has been India’s envoy to Canada and South Korea, said that does not mean recognition or endorsement but it just means “we are having a channel of communication” so that Pakistan does not get a “free run”. Prakash said what was surprising was that even the Doha group had been eased out because they were not considered to be hardline enough, and asserted that “Rawalpindi (a reference to Pakistani Army) was calling the shots”. “I would say that the bottle is old and the wine is old when you have people like Mullah Hasan Akhund, who was the person who ordered the destruction of Bamiyan Buddha, or you have Sirajuddin Haqqani who was instrumental in attacking the Indian embassy, these are the people who know only one language and that is the language of the gun,” he asserted.