By Express News Service

NEW DELHI:  Expressing concern at the security situation in Afghanistan, India on Thursday hinted that it is holding discussions with the Taliban. Responding to a question on whether discussions were on with the Taliban, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said that New Delhi has been in touch with everybody concerned. “We are in touch with all stakeholders, different stakeholders. I would not like to add anything further,” Bagchi said.

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Bagchi’s comments came on a day when India was participating in the regional dialogue on Afghanistan in Doha after being snubbed for the ‘extended troika’ meeting. According to the MEA spokesperson, Joint Secretary (Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran) JP Singh is attending the meeting in Doha. India was invited to the regional dialogue by Mutlaq bin Majed Al-Qahtani, Qatar’s special envoy for counter-terrorism and conflict resolution, during his India visit last week.

The comments also came on a day when the Taliban captured a 10th provincial capital in Afghanistan in a week. On Thursday, Ghazni, located only 150 kilometres from Kabul, fell to the militant group. US intelligence reports have suggested that the Taliban could capture Kabul within 90 days.

Meanwhile, New Delhi also said it hoped that an immediate and comprehensive cease-fire would be put in place and urged all Indians to return as soon as possible while adding that a formal evacuation mechanism is not in place.

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On protecting the minorities in Afghanistan, Bagchi said India is in touch with Hindus and Sikhs. India brought back about 50 officials and citizens from Mazar-e-Sharif amid fighting near the capital of the Balkh province on Wednesday. “Our Consulate continues to be operational with locally recruited staff,” Bagchi said.

Engineers rescuedThree Indian engineers working at a site in an area not under the control of Afghan government forces, were rescued recently, according to the Indian embassy in Kabul

No embassy closureIndia does not have plans to shut down its embassy in Kabul and pressed for a comprehensive ceasefire to end the conflict in Afghanistan, said MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi