NEW DELHI: In a move unlikely to go down well with the rabidly patriarchal Taliban that hopes to return to power in Afghanistan, India and Central Asian nations have proposed attracting Afghan women to participate in the country’s public life.
The first meeting of the India-Central Asia foreign ministers’ dialogue, with the participation of Afghanistan, in Samarkhand, Uzbekistan, on Saturday also agreed to “promote inclusive Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process and reconciliation, and to assist in economic reconstruction of Afghanistan”.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her counterparts from Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan participated in the meeting. Welcoming the participation of Afghanistan as an important land link in regional cooperation, transit of goods and energy, all the ministers expressed their commitment to peace, security and stability of Afghanistan.
Swaraj also said India would be happy with the participation of the Central Asian countries at the Chabahar Day International Conference in Chabahar on 26 February.
US President Donald Trump’s proposal to halve the American troops in Afghanistan has emboldened the Taliban, which has consistently rejected talks with the Afghan government. Last week, it called off talks with US officials led by Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad due to an “agenda disagreement”.
Khalilzad was also in New Delhi last week as part of a tour of China, Afghanistan, and Pakistan to brief officials on his efforts to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table. India sees the Taliban as a proxy for Pakistan’s ISI, and has consistently refused to hold direct talks with it.
Senior government officials had rejected Gen Bipin Rawat’s recent comments that India would be “left behind” if it didn’t engage with the Taliban. “The Army chief has no business commenting on a political decision,” said an official.