India has accepted an invitation to witness the signing of the U.S.-Taliban peace deal in Doha, official sources confirmed. India’s Ambassador to Qatar P. Kumaran will represent the country at Saturday’s event, which will be hosted by the Government of Qatar and will be attended by representatives of about 24 countries.
The decision to send Mr. Kumaran to the ceremony came even as Kabul hosted Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla who met the Acting Foreign Minister of Afghanistan Haroon Chakhansuri in the Afghan capital. “Foreign Secretary conveyed India’s support for the people of Afghanistan in their pursuit for sustainable peace, security and development,” Ministry of External Affairs Official Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said after the meeting. “They reviewed and positively assessed developments in bilateral strategic partnership,” Mr. Kumar observed, adding that the Foreign Secretary reiterated India’s commitment to Afghanistan’s pursuit of “sustainable peace and reconciliation”.
Officials had earlier indicated that India would like the peace process to be inclusive — Afghan owned, Afghan led and Afghan controlled — and the participation of the Afghan government’s delegation in the ceremony in Doha would show that the upcoming intra-Afghan peace negotiations would be following the path desired by India. Kabul has sent a six-member official delegation, which will begin the intra-Afghan negotiations with the Taliban soon after the peace deal with the U.S. is signed on Saturday.
Officials here maintain that India will consider the sensitivities of the Kabul government while framing future policies regarding Afghanistan. The peace deal between the Taliban and the U.S. comes after a long and risky negotiation and includes several difficult proposals that will unfold in phases after the deal is signed. During this time, the Taliban had opened up formal channels of communication with other countries like China, Russia, Iran. However, India did not conduct any negotiations with the group.
The deal will face its first test when Kabul sits for negotiations with the Taliban as the latter has extracted a promise from the U.S. for freeing a large number of its cadre from the Afghan government’s prisons. That apart, the Taliban’s participation in the overground political process remains a difficult issue that will also be worked on after the signing of the accord.
India has been a key stakeholder in the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan.
In a significant move, India had sent two former diplomats in “non-official” capacity to a conference on Afghan peace process in Moscow in November 2018.
The conference organised by Russia was attended by a high-level Taliban delegation, representatives of Afghanistan as well as from several other countries, including the U.S., Pakistan and China.
Major powers such as the U.S., Russia and Iran have been reaching out to the Taliban as part of efforts to push the stalled Afghan peace process.
India has been supporting a national peace and reconciliation process which is Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan controlled.
India has also been maintaining that care should be taken to ensure that any such process does not lead to any “ungoverned spaces” where terrorists and their proxies can relocate.
Ahead of peace deal, India has conveyed to the U.S. that pressure on Pakistan to crack down on terror networks operating from its soil must be kept up though Islamabad’s cooperation for peace in Afghanistan is crucial.
(With inputs from PTI)