New Delhi, Jan 10 (PTI) Army Chief Gen. Bipin Thursday said India cannot be left out of the “bandwagon” when a number of major countries reaching out to Taliban, noting that the engagement was necessary to pursue New Delhi’s interests in the war-torn country.

He said India should not be out of the “high table” where key players are engaging with the Taliban to explore ways to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan.

“A number of countries are talking to the Taliban. The issue we should address is — do we have an interest in Afghanistan. If the answer is yes, then you cannot be out of the bandwagon,” he said during a press conference.

In his address at the Raisina Dialogue on Wednesday, Gen. Rawat backed dialogue with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

“Our thinking is that — yes we have an interests in Afghanistan and if we have interests, and if other people are saying that there should be talks, we should also become its part. May be directly or indirectly. We cannot be left out,” he said.

Gen. Rawat said there has been a feeling that things have improved in Afghanistan.

“In some of the areas development has happened. There is a people’s voice emerging to say that we want peace. Therefore, some nations decided that lets start talks with Taliban and see whether they can also be brought in the system of governance,” he said.

“Unless you are not sitting on the high table you will not know what is happening… I did not say take the lead and talk,” he said.

The Army Chief’s comments Wednesday on engaging with Taliban were first such public remarks by a senior functionary of the government.

Major powers like the US and Russia have been reaching out to the Taliban as part of efforts to push the stalled Afghan peace process.

India has been a key stakeholder in the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan.

In a significant move, India had sent two former diplomats in “non official” capacity to a conference on Afghan peace process in Moscow in November which was attended by a high-level Taliban delegation.

The conference organised by Russia was attended by representatives of Afghanistan as well as from several other countries including the US, Pakistan and China.

India has been maintaining a policy of not engaging with the Taliban and pressing for an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace initiative to bring peace and stability in the war-ravaged country.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.