Indian officials attend Afghan peace meeting
NEWDELHI: The Taliban listed four conditions for beginning peace talks at a meeting hosted by the Russian government even as the opposition criticised India’s perceived shift from a policy of not engaging directly with the Afghan insurgent group.
India participated in the second meeting under the “Moscow format” on Friday at a “non-official level” – its representatives were retired ambassadors TCA Raghavan and Amar Sinha – and the Taliban sent a five-member delegation, led by Muhammad Abbas Stanikzai, from its “political office” in Qatar.
According to a transcript of the speech delivered by the Taliban delegation, the group raised four conditions to begin peace talks – removal from sanctions, release of all detained Taliban cadres, formal opening of an office and the stopping of what it described as “poisonous propaganda” against the group, including allegations of its involvement in attacks on students and civilians.
The panel said the group does “not allow anyone to use the soil of Afghanistan against other countries”, i ncluding neighbours. It contended that “establishing an Islamic system in conformity with the faith of its people can’t be considered terrorism”.
India and Afghanistan, working in close coordination, decided to participate in Friday’s meeting at a “non-official” level. The external affairs ministry said its participation was “consistent” with its policy of backing Afghanled and Afghan-owned process for peace. “Where did we say there will be talks with the Taliban?...we just said we will be participating in a meeting on Afghanistan, hosted by Russia,” said external affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar.
The Congress said the Centre’s decision amounted to a reversal of India’s stated policy of not engaging the Taliban. “Sitting at the same table as Taliban, notwithstanding the chicanery of saying India was represented at a non-official level, has only served to legitimise Taliban,” said party spokesperson Manish Tewari.