India on Thursday confirmed that it will attend, albeit at a non-official level, 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,” said External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar.
“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 said.
“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 at the meeting will be at the non-official level.”
This will be the first time that India will be sharing talks table with the Afghan Taliban on issues of peace and stability in Afghanistan.
Sources told IANS that Amar Sinha, former Secretary in the External Affairs Ministry who also served as India’s Ambassador to Afghanistan, and T.C.A. Raghavan, former Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan, will represent New Delhi 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.
New Delhi and Moscow also resolved to launch joint development and capacity building projects in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, the US has also confirmed its participation in the talks in Moscow on Friday.
At a media briefing in Washington on Wednesday, US State Department Deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino said that his country “believes that all countries should support direct dialogue between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban to reach an end to the war”.
“And we’ve been clear that no government, including Russia, can be a substitute for the Afghan government in direct negotiations with the Taliban,” Palladino said.
“In coordination with the Afghan government, the United States Embassy in Moscow will send a representative to the working level to observe the discussions, and the United States stands ready to work with all interested parties to support and facilitate a peace process.”