India to attend Moscow talks with Taliban at 'non-official' level
In a first, India will be participant in multilateral talks with Afghan Taliban in the same room but at a 'non- official level'. Russia will be hosting discussion on Afghanistan and steps towards po l it ica l reconciliation in the war-torn country in Moscow format of talks for the second time this Friday.
The talks previously scheduled in early September were postponed after the Ashraf Ghani government pulled out of it calling it 'unnecessary' in view of the Taliban's rejection of 'peace and direct negotiations'. The meeting will bring together deputy foreign ministers and special representatives in an effort to broker peace from 12 countries, including Iran, China, Pakistan and US. "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 Afghan-led, Afghan- owned, and Afghan-controlled and with participation of the Government of Afghanistan," said Raveesh Kumar, MEA (Ministry of External Affairs) spokesperson.
In the first round of the Moscow format though which did not include the Afghan Taliban, India was represented by Joint Secretary Deepak Mittal. This time retired senior ambassadors to Pakistan and Afghanistan TCA Raghavan and Amar Sinha will be on the table. "Our participation at the meeting will be at the nonofficial level," Raveesh Kumar added.
New Delhi which has been a part of Heart of Asia and other dialogue forums on Afghanistan's future maintains that it can be share table with Taliban only if the elected government in Kabul is a willing participant to it. "It is important to be in the room as India is invested heavily economically and diplomatically in Afghanistan and works closely with the government in Kabul. It is the process that matters," underlined an Indian official.
Welcoming India's decision a Russian Embassy official in Delhi said, "We highly value India's support in the peace process in Afghanistan." The Afghan government has sent a four-member delegation of the High Peace Council (HPC) for the talks headed by vice chair Haji Din Mohammad. Meanwhile, in departure from its previous stance of boycotting the format in September, US embassy in Moscow will send a representative to the Friday meeting 'to observe the discussions', said a State Department official.