NEW DELHI: India on Wednesday welcomed Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s offer for unconditional talks with the Taliban, though it underlined that there could be no compromise with terrorism.
The offer was made at the second edition of the Kabul Process, an international attempt to bring peace to Afghanistan. Earlier, both India and Afghanistan had reservations about the Taliban, which is backed by Pakistan.
Ghani’s ‘unconditional’ offer included a ceasefire, release of prisoners, and eventual recognition of the Taliban as a political party — provided it recognised the Afghan government and respected the rule of law. Recently, the Taliban had announced that it would talk directly with the US, instead of the “puppet regime” in Kabul.
India’s foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale, who was in Kabul for the conference attended by representatives from 26 countries, the EU, the UN and NATO, also met with Afghan and American leaders.
Gokhale conveyed that “India welcomed the Afghan government’s call to armed groups to cease violence and join national peace and reconciliation process that would protect the rights of all Afghans, including the women, children and the minorities” in a “inclusive, democratic and pluralistic nation free from the shadow of terrorism.”
Despite speculation that Gokhale would meet his Pakistani counterpart Tehmina Janjua on the sidelines of the conference, there was apparently no such meeting in line with New Delhi’s policy that terror and talks cannot go together.
As for Ghani’s peace offer, an official pointed out that apart from it being almost a ‘last ditch’ attempt to bring peace to Afghanistan, “it was important to note that days earlier, Ghani, along with Indian Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar, was in Herat for the inauguration of work on the Afghan portion of the 1800km-long TAPI pipeline.”
The proposed pipeline would pump gas from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan and then on to Pakistan and India. Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, Pakistani PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, and Gen. John Nicholson, commander of US Forces Afghanistan and NATO’s Resolute Support Mission, were among others present. “And all of them know there is no way that the pipeline could ever be operational without a buy-in by the Taliban,” the official said.