NEW DELHI: India on Thursday joined a regional conclave hosted by Qatar to discuss ways to contain the escalating situation in Afghanistan in the backdrop of the Taliban's continued offensive across the country.
J P Singh, the Joint Secretary in the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran division in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), represented India at the meeting, officials said.
MEA Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said several important stakeholders in Afghanistan attended the meeting.
Responding to a question on whether discussions were on with the Taliban, He also said New Delhi was in touch with everybody concerned.
"The situation in Afghanistan is of concern. It is a rapidly evolving situation. We continue to hope that there will be a comprehensive ceasefire in Afghanistan," he said.
“We are in touch with all stakeholders, different stakeholders. I would not like to add anything further,” he said.
Bagchi’s comments came on a day when India was participating in the regional dialogue on Afghanistan in Doha after being snubbed for the ‘extended troika’ meeting.
The invitation for the meeting to India was extended by Qatari special envoy for conflict resolution Mutlaq bin Majed Al-Qahtani during his visit to the national capital last week, Bagchi said.
Al-Qahtani, the Special Envoy of the Foreign Minister of Qatar for Counter-terrorism and Mediation of Conflict Resolution, visited India ostensibly to discuss the latest developments in Afghanistan.
He met External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla and Singh.
"We are committed to the long-term development of Afghanistan. We would like to see a peaceful and democratic Afghanistan," Bagchi said at a media briefing.
Qatar's capital Doha has been the venue for the intra-Afghan peace talks and the Gulf country has emerged as a crucial player in facilitating the Afghan peace process.
According to the MEA spokesperson, Joint Secretary (Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran) JP Singh is attending the meeting in Doha.
India was invited to the regional dialogue by Mutlaq bin Majed Al-Qahtani, Qatar’s special envoy for counter-terrorism and conflict resolution, during his India visit last week.
The comments also came on a day when the Taliban captured a 10th provincial capital in Afghanistan in a week.
On Thursday, Ghazni, located only 150 kilometres away from Kabul, fell to the militant group. US intelligence reports have suggested that the Taliban could capture Kabul within 90 days.
Meanwhile, New Delhi also said it hoped that an immediate and comprehensive cease-fire would be put in place and urged all Indians to return as soon as possible while adding that a formal evacuation mechanism is not in place.
On protecting the interests of minorities in Afghanistan, Bagchi said India is in touch with Hindus and Sikhs.
India brought back about 50 officials and citizens from and around Mazar-e-Sharif amid fighting near the capital of the Balkh province on Wednesday.
“Our Consulate there continues to be operational with locally recruited staff,” Bagchi said.
Asked about Pakistan's continued support to the Taliban, Bagchi said the international community is well aware of that country's role.
The Taliban has been making rapid advances across Afghanistan by resorting to widespread violence since the United States began withdrawing its troops from the country on May 1.
The US has already pulled back the majority of its forces and is looking to complete the drawdown by August 31.
India has been engaged with a number of stakeholders and leading powers on the latest developments in Afghanistan.
It has been supporting a national peace and reconciliation process that is Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled.
India has also been calling upon all sections of the political spectrum in Afghanistan to work together to meet the aspirations of all people in the country, including those from the minority communities, for a prosperous and safe future.
Imran critical of Washington role
Pakistan PM Imran Khan on Thursday said the US finds Islamabad useful only for clearing its mess in Afghanistan and gives preference to India while forming partnerships.
He added Washington is treating India differently for own interests.
(With PTI Inputs)