India and the United States yet again committed themselves to work together and “promote regional and international cooperation” with regard to Afghanistan.
The US Special Representative on Afghanistan Reconciliation, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, visited India on September 15 and called on Indian External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar and shared with him the crucial American perspectives.
National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla were also present on the occasion.
“Glad to receive Amb. Zalmay Khalilzad @US4AfghanPeace this evening. Useful discussions on the Doha Meeting and its follow-up,” S Jaishankar tweeted.
It would be recalled that Khalilzad had visited India on a similar mission on May 7, 2020. This was his fifth visit to India since January 2019.
“Khalilzad appreciated India’s participation in the Intra-Afghan Negotiations (IAN) held in Doha on September 12.
He briefed about the US assessment of IAN and shared the US perspective on the Afghan peace process,” the source said.
US-India Discuss Cooperation on Afghan Peace Process
The two sides discussed future steps and possible cooperation between India and the US in furthering the Afghan peace process.
Sources said the deliberations are a reflection of the India-US strategic partnership which provides for close consultations between the two countries on bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual interest.
New Delhi has been supporting a national peace and reconciliation process in the terror-ravaged country – which should be ‘Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled’.
Mr Khalilzad had visited Islamabad on Monday, September 14, where he had met Pakistan Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and discussed the Afghan peace process.
India has been a major stakeholder in peace and stability in Afghanistan.
It has also invested USD two billion in aid and reconstruction activities.
A senior official delegation led by J P Singh, Joint Secretary (Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran) in the Ministry of External Affairs participated in the inaugural ceremony of the intra-Afghan negotiations in Doha on September 12.
Dr S Jaishankar joined it through a video conference.
Indian emphasis on Old Relations with Afghanistan
In his address, Dr S Jaishankar referred to the millennia old relationship between India and Afghanistan, which he said had withstood the test of time.
He highlighted India’s role as a major development partner of Afghanistan with over 400 projects completed in all the 34 provinces of Afghanistan.
The Minister conveyed that India’s policy on Afghanistan had been consistent. India believes any peace process must be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled, has to respect the national
sovereignty and territorial integrity of Afghanistan and preserve the progress made in the establishment of a democratic Islamic Republic in Afghanistan.
The interests of minorities, women and vulnerable sections of society must be preserved and the issue of violence across the country and its neighbourhood has to be effectively addressed.
Dr S Jaishankar also wished for the success of the Intra-Afghan negotiations in delivering to the people of Afghanistan what they have longed for – a peaceful and prosperous future in an independent and sovereign nation.
Afghan Peace Process
Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, was in Doha, Qatar, for the official start of the talks. In his observation, Pompeo had “urged the Taliban” to seize this opportunity to forge a political settlement and reach a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire, according to a State Department spokesperson.
The Trump administration’s core goal has been to make good on President Donald Trump’s promise to pull American troops out of the longest war the United States has ever fought.
Direct negotiations between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban began over the weekend.
The “Intra-Afghan” talks were the direct result of an agreement reached between the insurgent group and the Trump administration in February.
The Afghan government was not directly involved in those negotiations, according to media reports.
(Nirendra Dev is Delhi based senior journalist and author of books including ‘The Talking Guns: North East India’ and writes on strategic and foreign policy issues)
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