As the United States is set to sign a landmark piece deal with the Taliban today,  after 19 years of its troops being deployed in Afghanistan in the aftermath of  the 9/11 terror attacks, India will attend the historic signing event of the long-sought deal between the US and the Taliban as an “observer”.

India’s Ambassador to Qatar P Kumaran will attend the signing ceremony in Doha today. It will be for the first time India will officially attend an event involving the Taliban. India has been a key stakeholder in the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan.The deal would allow for the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan after the brutal 18-year long war. The US has lost over 2,400 soldiers in Afghanistan since late 2001.

In a significant move, India had sent two former diplomats in “non-official” capacity to a conference on the 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 US, Pakistan, and China. Major powers such as the US, 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.

A day ahead of signing of a landmark peace deal between the US and the Taliban, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla on Friday travelled to Kabul and conveyed to the top Afghan leadership India’s unstinted support to a peaceful and stable Afghanistan.

He met President Ashraf Ghani and handed over to him a letter from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Shringla met Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, Vice President-elect Amrullah Saleh, National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib and acting Foreign Minister of Afghanistan Haroon Chakhansuri and apprised them about India’s strong commitment for all-round development of Afghanistan.

External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar in a series of tweets conveyed that India stands with Afghanistan for strengthening national unity, territorial integrity, democracy, plurality and prosperity in the country and bringing an end to externally sponsored terrorism.

On Shringla’s meeting with Ghani, Kumar said the Afghan president appreciated India’s consistent support for democracy and constitutional order in Afghanistan.

Kumar further said the foreign secretary had a meaningful exchange of views on the developments and peace efforts in Afghanistan with the leadership of the country.

“Foreign Secretary conveyed India’s support to government and people of Afghanistan in their efforts to bring peace and stability through an inclusive & Afghan-led, Afghan-owned & Afghan-controlled efforts,” he said.

After Shringla’s meeting with Abdullah, Kumar tweeted: “They agreed that independent, sovereign, democratic, pluralistic and inclusive Afghanistan would promote peace and prosperity in the region.”

He said Shringla conveyed India’s steadfast support for democracy, plurality, national cohesiveness and socio-economic development and enduring peace and stability in Afghanistan.

In his meeting with Mohib, the foreign secretary praised the dedication and professionalism of the Afghan security forces in safeguarding Afghanistan’s territorial integrity under “very challenging circumstances”, Kumar said.

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 US 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.

More than 10,000 civilians were killed or wounded in Afghanistan’s war last year, the United Nations announced Saturday, as a historic partial truce kicked in across the country. India did not recognise Afghanistan diplomatically when Taliban was ruling the country from 1996 to 2002.

(With PTI inputs)