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In a first, India to hold talks with Taliban at ‘non-official level’ in Moscow

Moscow has invited representatives from the US as well as India, Iran, China, Pakistan and five former Soviet republics in Central Asia to take part in the event.

SNS | New Delhi |

India said it will participate in the meeting on Friday being hosted by Russia on Afghanistan at a “non-official level” in Moscow where representatives of the Taliban will be present.

Last week the Russian foreign ministry had said that the international talks on Afghanistan will be held on November 9.

In response to the queries on India’s participation, Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said, “We are aware that the Russian Federation is hosting a meeting in Moscow on 9 November on Afghanistan.”

“Our participation at the meeting will be at the non-official level,” he said.

India supports all efforts at peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan that will preserve unity and plurality, and bring security, stability and prosperity to the country, he said.

“India’s consistent policy has been that such efforts should be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, and Afghan-controlled and with the participation of the government of Afghanistan,” Kumar asserted.

Moscow said Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and the Taliban have agreed to send delegations to the conference.

“It will be the first time that a delegation of the Political Office of the Taliban Movement in Doha will take part in international talks (at) such a level,” the foreign ministry’s statement said.

Moscow has invited representatives from the US as well as India, Iran, China, Pakistan and five former Soviet republics in Central Asia to take part in the event.

The meeting comes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks a host of global issues.

After the talks, in a joint statement, the two sides declared their support to the Afghan government’s efforts towards the realisation of an Afghan-led, and Afghan-owned national peace reconciliation process.

Both sides had called upon the international community to join efforts to thwart any external interference in Afghanistan, to restore its economy, contribute to sustaining peace and security, economic and political development of a stable, secure, united, prosperous and independent Afghanistan.

India and Russia had resolved to direct their activities towards launching joint development and capacity building projects in Afghanistan.

According to Russian news agency TASS, this is for the second time, Russia is attempting to bring regional powers together while discovering ways for establishing peace in war-torn Afghanistan.

The first such meeting, proposed for September 4 of this year, was called off after the US and Afghanistan pulled out of the ‘Moscow-format’ talks.

The US was the first to decline Russia’s invitation. This was not a surprise as Washington had refused to attend the first round in 2017 and had not been invited to other iterations of Russia-led regional meetings on Afghanistan over the last two years.

A day later, on August 23, the Afghan government rejected the Russian invitation describing its involvement at the Moscow meeting as “unnecessary”, as the Taliban had “disrespected internationally-sanctioned principles and rejected the message of peace and direct negotiations”.

A US government watchdog this week said Kabul’s control of Afghanistan slipped in recent months as local security forces suffered record-level casualties while making minimal or no progress against the Taliban.

The US has renewed efforts to engage the Taliban in peace talks, which are showing tentative signs of bearing fruit.

Taliban representatives have met with US officials at least twice in Qatar in recent months, most recently on October 12 with newly appointed US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.

Moscow has declared its readiness to serve as a platform for dialogue.

In April 2017, Russia hosted an international conference on Afghanistan.

(With agency inputs)