A solution of the Afghan civil war should balance the ethnic and religious groups of Afghanistan and no group should be left out of the final settlement of the war, said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov here on Tuesday after holding bilateral discussions with his Indian counterpart Dr. S. Jaishankar. Mr Lavrov said India and Russia are working for stability and connectivity in the Asia-Pacific and urged that “military alliances” should not come up in Asia.
“The Taliban movement is a part of Afghan society. Decision on the settlement in Afghanistan should foresee the participation of all political, ethnic and religious groups in the country. Otherwise the solution will not be stable. This decision has to be based on balance of ethnic, political and religious interests, including in the legislative bodies,”Mr Lavrov said.
“Any exclusion of any group from this process will not lead to an implementable and sustainable agreement which can lead to resumption of hostilities, which is not the desire of the stakeholders,” he said in response to a question after both the ministers issued press statements.
Dr. Jaishankar said there is a need to “harmonise” the interests of various stakeholders that are active in and around Afghanistan.
“For India, what happens in Afghanistan impacts its security directly. I shared our approach that for a durable peace there would require harmonising the interest of all - both within and around that country. The peace process should be based on foundational principles to which we all subscribe and a political solution should mean independent, sovereign, united and democratic Afghanistan,” said Mr. Jaishankar.
Mr Lavrov referred to the interaction between the Taliban and President Donald Trump’s administration and urged for continued negotiation for peace.
“I will remind that the previous U.S. administration engaged the Taliban movement and created a window of opportunity to reach an agreement among all the hostile parties. As per the need to provide security in Afghanistan it depends on whether the settlement can take into account the political and security settlements,” he said, emphasising that a sustainable solution to the Afghan war can be found under the ‘Moscow format’.
Apart from the Afghan situation, the major issue on the agenda for Tuesday's talks was expected to be the delivery of the Russian S400 missile defence system and the threat of U.S. sanctions that the delivery could attract. However, the ministers said the “specific” issue did not come up during the discussion.
However, Mr. Lavrov acknowledged that the U.S. exerts pressure on any country that wants to sign military and industrial contracts with Russia.
“We did not discuss these response from the U.S. but we confirmed that we will deepen our military cooperation. We also discussed the prospects of manufacturing Russian military equipment under Make in India scheme,” said Mr Lavrov. A diplomatic source however told The Hindu that “all issues” were discussed between the two sides.
Significantly, the Indian membership in the Quad featured at the talks, according to Mr. Lavrov.
Answering a question, Mr. Lavrov indirectly took up the Quad and said he has heard of an ‘Asian NATO’ and ‘Middle East NATO’ and argued that Russia does not believe in the military alliance systems.
“Today we exchanged views on these. Our Indian friends have the same position. We are interested in inclusive cooperation which is for something and not against somebody,” he said.
Mr Jaishankar said the India-Russia pharmaceutical collaboration has become “more serious” during the pandemic. In response, Mr Lavrov informed, “The Russian Fund for Direct Investment has signed contract with various Indian manufacturers for Sputnik V vaccines for 700-750 million doses. This will become possible because of the manufacturing capacity in India.” Both ministers also took up the possible export of the Covaxin to Russia which is likely to be cleared by experts.
The discussion also took up bilateral preparation for the annual summit between President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Narendra Modi later this year. Russia and India are going to interact closely at various multilateral platforms like BRICS, and the UN where India is a non-permanent member at the Security Council.