NEW DELHI: Afghanistan's chief peace envoy said on Saturday that India’s civil and military leaderships are supportive of an inclusive, peaceful settlement of the Afghan peace process and that Kabul’s interactions with New Delhi are expected to further deepen in the coming weeks and months.
In an interview in the Indian capital, Abdullah Abdullah said that while the issue of Afghanistan involves the international community at large, he hopes that India will play an important role in the peace process by encouraging the voices of tolerance and coexistence.
India also espouses for a peaceful Afghanistan which is in peace within the country and a democratic Afghanistan which does not harbour terrorist groups,” Abdullah said. This is in line with the aspirations of the people of Afghanistan and the sacrifices our people have made for it.
Abdullah’s New Delhi visit comes at a crucial time for India, which is looking to cement its efforts to protect its strategic interests in Afghanistan amid Pakistan’s growing influence in the region and an expected US troops withdrawal from Afghanistan.
It also signals a gradual shift in India’s approach in dealing with the ongoing Afghan peace process that began two years ago, for which it has been invited to take part in for the first time.
As chief of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation, Abdullah oversees the government side in negotiations. This is his first visit to India after the formation of the new government in Kabul following last years election.
Abdullah’s India trip, which is taking place a week after his visit to Pakistan, comes as Kabul’s government negotiators are meeting with Taliban representatives in Qatar to plot a future course for a post-war Afghanistan.
Speaking at a luxury hotel in New Delhi, Abdullah said he was encouraged by the talks he had with the Indian leadership that centered around peace and stability in the region.
He said Indian leadership assured him that India will back any settlement acceptable to the Afghan people.
Abdullah, who landed in India on Tuesday, has so far met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and other high-ranking Indian officials, including the army chief, Bipin Rawat.
A statement released by India’s foreign ministry on Thursday said that in his meeting with Abdullah, Modi called for India’s commitment towards sustainable peace and prosperity in Afghanistan and welcomed efforts towards a comprehensive and permanent” ceasefire in Afghanistan.
Over the years, India has provided Afghan security forces with operational training and military equipment, even though it has had no troops on the ground. It is the regions largest provider of development aid to Afghanistan and has often expressed concerns over violence by the Taliban.
Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2020