Elected representatives should lead Afghan peace settlement: India

UNITED NATIONS: India has issued a note of caution for the United States peace efforts in Afghanistan with the Taliban saying that the elected representatives should be the main voice in deciding the nation’s future. Any solution should have “constitutional legitimacy and a political mandate” and “not leave ungoverned spaces for terrorists and their proxies to exploit”, Indian diplomat Vidhisha Maitra said on Wednesday.

“In any country, it is the people of that country and the elected representatives of that country who should have the leading voice in deciding their future (and) this has always been one of India’s guiding principles in its engagement with Afghanistan,” Maitra, a first secretary in India’s UN Mission, told the General Assembly during the debate on Afghanistan.

“While the international community must be united in supporting these efforts, we do not believe in advancing prescriptions,” she added. At the same time, she said that India did welcome “the opportunities created by the various initiatives towards a formal peace process at the international, regional and domestic levels”.

The US is trying to make a peace deal with the Taliban so its troops can be withdrawn from Afghanistan to keep President Donald Trump’s election promise. The negotiations led by US Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad have been an on-again, off-again process. The Taliban has refused to talk to the elected government of Afghanistan, which has expressed concern it would be undercut by a US-Taliban deal.

US Alternate UN Representative Cherith Norman-Chalet said that Washington sought a durable peace through a political settlement in which Kabul would play its rightful role. The US was committed to Afghanistan’s security and to ensuring that terrorists don’t exploit its territory.

Maitra listed the Taliban among the terrorist groups enjoying sanctuaries in Pakistan and operating abroad. “The sanctuary and safe havens enjoyed from beyond Afghanistan’s borders by groups such as the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, Da’esh, as well as Al Qaeda and its proscribed affiliates, including the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, must be eliminated,” she said.

Afghanistan’s Permanent Representative Adela Raz said, “We firmly believe in the principles of respecting sovereignty and state-to-state relations and holding these values central to the success of our peace efforts.”

Her government welcomed “regional and international peace efforts which align with an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process and it helps to facilitate the direct talks with the Taliban”, she added.

She reaffirmed President Ashraf Ghani’s offer to talk directly with the Taliban. She made a passing mention of the ongoing danger to Afghanistan from the Taliban. “People despite the threats of violence and attacks, in some cases even having their fingers cut-off by the Taliban, they still came out to vote,” she said.

India commended the people and security forces of Afghanistan for holding the presidential elections, showing their “faith in democratic governance and rejection of the evil forces of terror and violence”, Maitra said. Amid the uncertainty arising from the US-Taliban negotiations, the results of the September 28 presidential elections have not yet been announced. IANS