India will be present today (February 29) at the historic event of the signing of a peace deal between the US and the Taliban at a ceremony in Doha, of which it has been a key stakeholder in the reconciliation process in Afghanistan.
It will be for the first time India will officially attend an event involving the Taliban and will be attended by India’s Ambassador to Qatar P Kumaran.
Once the peace pact is signed between the US and the Taliban, it will provide for the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan nearly 18 years after their deployment in the country, in return for various security commitments from the Taliban and a pledge to hold talks with the government in Kabul.
In a significant move, India had sent two former diplomats in “non-official” capacity to a conference on the Afghan peace process in Moscow in November 2018.
In the wake of the event, conveying India’s unstinted support to a peaceful and stable Afghanistan, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla on Friday (February 28) travelled to Kabul, a day ahead of the signing of a landmark peace deal between the US and the Taliban.
Shringla met President Ashraf Ghani and handed over to him a letter from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
He also met Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, Vice President-elect Amrullah Saleh, National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib and acting Foreign Minister of Afghanistan Haroon Chakhansuri and apprised them about India’s strong commitment for all-round development of Afghanistan.
In a series of tweets, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said, India stands with Afghanistan for strengthening national unity, territorial integrity, democracy, plurality and prosperity in the country and bringing an end to externally sponsored terrorism.
Foreign Secretary @HarshShringla met Acting Foreign Minister @hchakhansuri of Afghanistan. They reviewed and positively assessed developments in bilateral strategic partnership. @IndianEmbkabul@vkumar1969 pic.twitter.com/LmimaFofF8
— Raveesh Kumar (@MEAIndia) February 28, 2020
On Shringla’s meeting with Ghani, Kumar said the Afghan president appreciated India’s consistent support for democracy and constitutional order in Afghanistan.
Kumar said the foreign secretary had a meaningful exchange of views on the developments and peace efforts in Afghanistan with the leadership of the country.
“Foreign Secretary conveyed India’s support to government and people of Afghanistan in their efforts to bring peace and stability through an inclusive & Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled efforts,” he said.
After Shringla’s meeting with Abdullah, Kumar tweeted: “They agreed that independent, sovereign, democratic, pluralistic and inclusive Afghanistan would promote peace and prosperity in the region.”
— Raveesh Kumar (@MEAIndia) February 28, 2020
He said Shringla conveyed India’s steadfast support for democracy, plurality, national cohesiveness and socio-economic development and enduring peace and stability in Afghanistan.
In his meeting with Mohib, the foreign secretary praised the dedication and professionalism of the Afghan security forces in safeguarding Afghanistan’s territorial integrity under “very challenging circumstances”, Kumar said.
The conference organised by Russia was attended by a high-level Taliban delegation, representatives of Afghanistan as well as from several other countries, including the US, Pakistan and China.
Major powers such as the US, Russia and Iran have been reaching out to the Taliban as part of efforts to push the stalled Afghan peace process.
India has been supporting a national peace and reconciliation process which is Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan controlled.
India has also been maintaining that care should be taken to ensure that any such process does not lead to any “ungoverned spaces” where terrorists and their proxies can relocate.
Ahead of the peace deal, India has conveyed to the US that pressure on Pakistan to crack down on terror networks operating from its soil must be kept up though Islamabad’s cooperation for peace in Afghanistan is crucial.
While there’s ongoing truce does not amount to a full ceasefire, the number of Taliban attacks has fallen dramatically, with only isolated attacks in rural areas breaking the calm.
The presence of the jihadists in Afghanistan has complicated negotiations between Washington and the Taliban. While the Taliban want all American forces out, the Pentagon insists thousands must remain in Afghanistan to tackle IS and other militant groups.
(With inputs from agencies.)