In­dia sends team for Afghan peace talks in Rus­sia

The New Indian Express - - INDIA - RAMANANDA SENGUPTA

IN a shift from In­dia’s stand of not en­gag­ing with the Tal­iban, New Delhi has sent two for­mer diplo­mats to at­tend talks on the Afghanistan peace process held in Rus­sia on Thurs­day.

A del­e­ga­tion from the Tal­iban of­fice based in Doha, Qatar, as well as a del­e­ga­tion of Afghanistan’s “High Peace Coun­cil”, along with a dozen coun­tries, in­clud­ing Pak­istan and a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from the US em­bassy in Moscow, are in at­ten­dance. The de­ci­sion to send a ‘non-of­fi­cial’ team to the meet­ing fol­lowed hec­tic dis­cus­sions with the Afghanistan govern­ment. Moscow’s plans to host the talks in Septem­ber were can­celled af­ter the US pulled out, and the Ashraf Ghani-led govern­ment, which is sus­pi­cious of the Tal­iban, also ob­jected.

The two In­dian rep­re­sen­ta­tives are for­mer am­bas­sador to Pak­istan TCA Ragha­van and for­mer am­bas­sador to Afghanistan Amar Sinha. While stress­ing that that “our par­tic­i­pa­tion at the meet­ing will be at the nonof­fi­cial level,” MEA spokesper­son Raveesh Ku­mar jus­ti­fied the move say­ing that “In­dia sup­ports all ef­forts at peace and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion in Afghanistan that will pre­serve unity and plu­ral­ity, and bring se­cu­rity, sta­bil­ity and pros­per­ity to the coun­try. In­dia’s con­sis­tent pol­icy has been that such ef­forts should be Afghan­led, Afghan-owned, and Afghan­con­trolled and with par­tic­i­pa­tion of the Govern­ment of Afghanistan. Our de­ci­sion now has also been taken keep­ing in mind the com­fort level of the Afghan govern­ment.” He also stressed that the In­dian team was only there as “ob­servers,” and would not be part of the talks. Wel­com­ing the In­dian de­ci­sion, the Rus­sian Em­bassy in Delhi de­clared that “We highly re­gard In­dian sup­port in the peace process in Afghanistan and wel­come In­dian readi­ness and that of other part­ner coun­tries in the Moscow for­mat.”

Inau­gu­rat­ing the talks, Rus­sian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov, flanked by a five-man Tal­iban del­e­ga­tion and four mem­bers of Afghanistan’s High Peace Coun­cil, de­clared that “Rus­sia stands for pre­serv­ing un­di­vided Afghanistan."

We highly re­gard In­dian sup­port in the peace process in Afghanistan and wel­come In­dian readi­ness and that of other part­ner coun­tries.

Rus­sian Em­bassy

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