In a first, India to share platform with Taliban

NEW DELHI: While India will attend the meeting on Afghanistan hosted by Russia on Friday, the government has said that its participation will be restricted to “non-official level”. The government recalled India’s position that all peace efforts must be led, owned and also controlled by the Afghans.

India’s presence in the Moscow meeting, even if at the non-official level, is likely to raise eyebrows as it will for the first time India will share a platform with the Taliban. India will be represented by retired diplomats TCA Raghavan and Amar Sinha.

Official sources said India’s decision was well thought out and in line with the “comfort level” of the Afghanistan government. “We are aware that the Russian Federation is hosting a meeting in Moscow on November 9 on Afghanistan,” said MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar. “India supports all efforts at peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan that will preserve unity and plurality, and bring security, stability and prosperity to the country. India’s consistent policy has been that such efforts should be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, and Afghan-controlled and with participation of the Government of Afghanistan. Our participation will be at a non-official level,” he added.

Sources said Amar Sinha, former secretary in MEA who also served as India’s Ambassador to Afghanistan, and TCA Raghavan, former Indian high commissioner to Pakistan, will represent New Delhi at the Moscow talks.

According to Sputnik news agency, Russia 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 first Moscow Format meeting saw India represented at the joint secretary level but there was no Taliban in the meeting. “For the first time, a delegation of the Political Office of the Taliban Movement in Doha will participate in an international meeting of this level,” said a press release issued by Moscow. While the Afghan government is not directly participating in the meeting, a delegation of the country’s High Peace Council is expected to attend.Russian embassy said in a reaction that it welcomed India and other countries’ participation and that it highly valued India’s support to the peace process.

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