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Initial talks with Taliban can be thru’ its Doha office: Experts

Bangladesh’s Decision Regarding The Taliban Should Not Be Motivated By India And China As Both Have Taken Opposite Positions On The Afghanistan Issue, Major General Muniruzzaman Said

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Bangladesh must decide on the Taliban issue with caution and patience, said experts at a virtual event on Wednesday. 

If possible, preliminary talks can be held with the Taliban's Doha office, a back channel of communication, they opined at the event titled "Afghan Taliban government: Challenges and impact on the region", organised by the Study Group on Regional Affairs.  

But Bangladesh has to raise security concerns and try to get an idea about Taliban's future activities, they added.

"This is a new Afghanistan where there is a huge number of young people. The Taliban have to take into account their hopes and aspirations. They need to listen to what the new generation wants," said Major General Muniruzzaman (retd), security analyst and president of Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies (BIPSS), a leading think-tank on security.

"Before formally recognising the Taliban government, we need to present our concerns before their representatives during back-channel talks," he also said.

Bangladesh's decision regarding the Taliban should not be motivated by India and China as both have taken opposite positions on the Afghanistan issue, he said, adding, "Our policy has to be determined, given our national interest," he added.

Regarding building relationships with the Taliban government, Shamsher M Chowdhury, former foreign secretary, said, "There is a need to establish an initial contact with Afghanistan through Qatar instead of completely cutting off contact. "We can discuss how our government and NGOs like Brac can play an economic role during a financially vulnerable Afghanistan," he added.

The instability in Afghanistan will not bring any positive result for any neighbouring countries. 

Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman, chairperson at Brac and adviser to the former caretaker government, said, "The big challenge for the Taliban now is to rejuvenate the war-torn Afghanistan's economy. Before recognising the Taliban government, Bangladesh needs to consider three issues - geopolitics, realignment and national interest."

He suggested Bangladesh take a more mature decision on the Afghanistan issue, considering its wider interests.

"All are [countries] talking about morality or ethics, but there remains a power game. So, Bangladesh has to be more efficient in the power game. We have to formulate our strategy very consciously," he added. 

Talking about recognising the Taliban, Mufti Faizullah, secretary to Islami Oikya Jote and muhaddith of Lalbagh Madrasa, said, "Bangladesh has to observe the activities of Taliban. before recognising Taliban government, we also need to look at what other Muslim countries and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) do."

Major General Muniruzzaman said, "Earlier, the Afghan returnees had been involved in terror activities in Bangladesh. So, there still have significant impacts of Afghanistan on the state of extremism in Bangladesh."

"We have been informed through law-enforcing agencies that many are now thinking of going to Afghanistan from Bangladesh. So, we have to be more aware of rising extremism," he added.

Earlier on 9 September, Foreign minister AK Abdul Momen said Bangladesh will decide its policy towards Afghanistan independently after observing the situation, their attitudes and policies but no terrorists will be patronised.

"We have zero tolerance...we will in no way patronise any terrorists," he told reporters referring to the involvement of few Bangladeshis in Afghanistan in the previous Taliban government.

Md Touhid Hossain, former foreign secretary, thinks extremism would never be able to establish a base in Bangladesh. A very minor portion may try to be active here after being inspired by the Taliban, but they will never succeed.

Amir Khasru, chief executive at Study Group on Regional Affairs, moderated the event.