Shringla meets top Afghan leaders ahead peace deal between US, Taliban

Shringla meets top Afghan leaders ahead peace deal between US, Taliban

NEW DELHI: 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.

In a series of tweets, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar 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 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.

The US and the Taliban are set to sign a peace deal at a ceremony in Doha on Saturday which will provide for the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan nearly 18 years after their deployment in the country.

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.

India has been a key stakeholder in the peace and reconciliation process 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’s Ambassador to Qatar P Kumaran is slated to attend the ceremony where the US and Taliban will strike the peace deal. 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. In a significant move, India had sent two former diplomats in “non-official” capacity to a conference on 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. 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. PTI