India to be in talks with Taliban at ‘non-official’ level in Moscow

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New Delhi: In first of its kind, India on Thursday confirmed it will be involved in talks with Taliban as India will participate in a ‘non-official level’, in the meeting being hosted by Russia on Afghanistan where representatives of the Taliban will be present.

It will be a multilateral meeting in Moscow on Afghanistan on Friday where the Afghan Taliban will also be present.

“We are aware that the Russian Federation is hosting a meeting in Moscow on November 9 on Afghanistan,” MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.

“India supports all efforts for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan that will preserve unity and plurality, and bring security, stability and prosperity to the country,” Kumar added.

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“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.

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

According to reports, former Secretary in the External Affairs Ministry, Amar Sinha, who also served as India’s Ambassador to Afghanistan, and T.C.A. Raghavan, former Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan, will represent India at the Moscow talks.

Prior to serving as India’s envoy to Pakistan, Raghavan dealt with Pakistan and Afghanistan issues for years as Joint Secretary (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran) in the External Affairs Ministry and as Deputy High Commissioner to Pakistan as well.

Raghavan is currently the Director General of the Indian Council for World Affairs (ICWA) think-tank.

According to Sputnik news agency, Russia has sent invitations for what is called the Moscow Format talks to Afghanistan, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, the US and the Afghan Taliban.

The Indian move comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to New Delhi last month for the annual bilateral summit with Prime Minister Modi.

A joint statement issued following the summit said that both India and Russia supported the Afghan government’s efforts towards the realization of an Afghan-led, and Afghan-owned national peace reconciliation process.

“Concerned with unabated violence, the (two) sides resolved to work through the Moscow Format, SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) Contact Group on Afghanistan, and all other recognised formats for an early resolution to the conflict in Afghanistan,” the statement said.

(With agencies input)

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