India welcomes Afghan results, cautious about challenges to Ghani-Saleh’s victory

December 23, 2019 10:20 pm | Updated 10:20 pm IST

India welcomed the preliminary results in the Afghanistan presidential election but stopped short of congratulating President Ashraf Ghani directly for winning a second term, along with his vice-presidential running mate, former intelligence chief and interior minister Amrullah Saleh.

According the Independent Election Commission (IEC) results announced on Sunday evening, Mr. Ghani had won a majority of 50.64% of the votes, with his closest rival and former chief executive Abdullah Abdullah getting 39.52% of the 1.9 million votes counted. However, a final result is still awaited, pending the resolution of election appeals filed by Mr. Abdullah.

“We welcome the announcement of the preliminary results of the Presidential election of Afghanistan held on September 28 and commend all the leaders and institutions for their hard work to preserve and strengthen democracy in the country… India remains committed to work with the people and Government of Afghanistan, in its fight against terrorism and in its pursuit of socio-economic development,” MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said on Monday.

“We expect that the complaints would be addressed through the prescribed legal processes so that the final results are declared in a timely manner,” he added, referring to the election being challenged on account of alleged voter fraud, low turnout and disputed biometric votes, which could, if they are set aside, lead to a re-election.

Diplomats also say while the preliminary result in favour of Mr. Ghani is important, it may be a short-lived win given the progress, after a three-month break, of the U.S.-Taliban talks being led by President Trump’s special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.

“It is a razor thin majority, and we have to wait for final results. If the intra-Afghan dialogue process starts, the equations may change, as the Taliban would like to be integrated into a new government structure,” said former Ambassador to Afghanistan and National Security Advisory Board member Amar Sinha.

“As soon as the Taliban forge a peace deal, there will have to be a power sharing [arrangement] in Kabul. That is difficult to visualize with President Ghani in place as the Taliban have been adamant about not recognizing his legitimacy,” added former Ambassador to Afghanistan and PM’s special envoy on disarmament Rakesh Sood.

Despite a possibly clouded future, the government is relieved by the win for the two leaders for the moment. New Delhi has had a cordial relationship with Mr. Ghani during his first term (2014-2019) and Mr. Saleh, during his long stint at Afghanistan’s intelligence agency National Directorate of Security (NDS) from 2004-2010, where he worked under former President Hamid Karzai, and more recently as the Interior Minister.

Mr. Saleh, who narrowly survived an assassination attempt during election, is also known for his trenchant criticism of the Taliban and Pakistan’s role in supporting them.

India has not formally held talks with the Taliban, and only sent “non-official” envoys to one round of talks that included the Taliban in Moscow in 2018. New Delhi had also broken ranks with the U.S. by insisting on the election process in Afghanistan to be completed, and not be derailed by the U.S.-Taliban talks.

Top News Today


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.