India must back Taliban talks, says German special envoy on Afghanistan

Ambassador Markus Potzel is in New Delhi to discuss outcome of intra-Afghan dialogue.

July 18, 2019 10:09 pm | Updated 10:09 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Markus Potzel, Germany’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, attends the intra-Afghan dialogue in the Qatari capital Doha on July 7, 2019.

Markus Potzel, Germany’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, attends the intra-Afghan dialogue in the Qatari capital Doha on July 7, 2019.

Urging the government to publicly express support for the ongoing peace process with the Taliban, the German special envoy on Afghanistan has said that the international community would like to see a larger regional role for India in the ongoing conflict and its resolution.

The envoy, Ambassador Markus Potzel, is in Delhi for talks with the government on the outcome of the intra-Afghan dialogue held in Doha on July 7-8, as well as the larger peace process between Taliban representatives and U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad who met at the same time.

“I am here to brief the Indian government, and I wanted to share my information about Doha and the Intra-afghan dialogue,” Mr. Potzel, who organised the Doha talks told a select group of journalists ahead of his meetings in South Block on Friday. The talks in Doha co-sponsored by Germany and Qatar ended with an unprecedented joint statement agreed to by more than 60 representatives of the Taliban and Afghan government officials (in their personal capacities), civil society members, politicians and women leaders. The statement included a commitment to reduce violence and bring civilian casualties “to zero”.

India has refused to be a part of talks with the Taliban directly, sending only retired officials in a “non-official” capacity for one round of talks in Moscow last year. Last week, “four-party” talks between the U.S., Russia, China and Pakistan appeared to cut India out of the talks on Afghanistan’s future. However, officials indicate that the next round of talks with regional powers will be held soon, which would invite India, central Asian neighbours like Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, as well as Iran.

“I am not here to give advice, but I would wish that the Indian government come out in the open and establish their position on the peace process,” said Mr. Potzel. “Germany also hopes to see India join the next round of regional talks on Afghanistan,” he added.

In a statement ahead of the German envoy’s meetings, the Ministry of External Affairs reiterated India’s traditional position on supporting only an “Afghan led, Afghan owned and Afghan controlled” process, which includes the government in Kabul.

“We believe that all initiatives and processes must include all sections of the Afghan society, including the legitimately elected government. Any process should respect the constitutional legacy and political mandate and should not lead to any ungoverned spaces where terrorist and their proxies can relocate,” said MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar on Thursday, in a veiled reference to Pakistan-sponsored groups in Afghanistan and the Taliban, that continue to carry out terror attacks and refuse to hold direct talks with the Ghani government.

The German envoy is likely to discuss India’s concerns with the process, as well as positions on the upcoming presidential elections in Afghanistan scheduled for September 28. Both Germany and India share the hope that elections will not be put off in order to facilitate the peace process with the Taliban, and also are not in favour of a “transitional government” being put in place if elections need to be postponed again.

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