NEW DELHI: 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 non-official 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 Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, and Afghan-controlled 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."