Mullah Abdussalam Zaeef
Mullah Abdussalam Zaeef, one time confidant of Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taliban chief who was granted an Indian visa, attended a conference in Goa on November 10 where Finance Minister P. Chidambaram was also present.
Zaeef was a deputy Minister in the Taliban Government and was its Ambassador to Pakistan during the 9/11 attacks on the US. He was known for his vitriolic speeches in his Press conferences in Islamabad. After the US invaded Afghanistan and the Taliban lost power, he was captured in Pakistan in 2001. He was then sent to the infamous Guantanamo Bay prison where he was lodged till 2005.
While media has raised questions of this former terrorist sharing a venue with the country’s Finance Minister, it is seen as a part of the strategy by India to gain leverage in post-US exit Afghanistan where Taliban is seen to be the leading power-wielding group poised to take over the country. Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai is not eligible for a third time candidature for the presidency under the Constitution. The visa was granted on suggestion from Home Ministry. It is argued that India may have to deal with the Taliban when US and NATO forces leave Afghanistan by December 2014. India has considerably invested in infrastructure projects in Afghanistan and has vital strategic interests in keeping Afghanistan away from complete sway by Pakistan. Zaeef was recently seen participating in a conference in England too and was provided luxurious accommodation and holidaying in Scotland. The urges of the real politik seem to be determining the course in neighbourhood relations.