In­dian of­fi­cials at­tend Afghan peace meet­ing

Hindustan Times (Delhi) - - NATION - HT Cor­re­spon­dent let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com

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.

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