Moscow Talks On Afghanistan

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A renewed attempt at finding a peaceful end to the lingering unrest in conflict-ridden Afghanistan held in Moscow.

Consultations on Afghan issues were held in a six-party format involving Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, Iran and India at the level of special envoys on Afghanistan and senior officials.

Main Outcomes:

Afghanistan and five regional players agreed at their first consultations in Moscow that adherence to ‘red lines’ was necessary for Taliban’s participation in talks with Afghanistan. While Afghanistan and India talked of the need for ending safe havens, India asserted that only Kabul had the right to decide its opposite number in direct talks.

All six countries agreed that the ‘red lines’ for engagement with the Taliban – which include giving up violence, abiding by Afghan constitution and cutting ties with al Qaida – have to be met.

All the participants agreed to strengthen efforts to promote the intra-Afghan reconciliation, while maintaining the leading role of the current government of Afghanistan. Participants have also agreed in favor of broadening this format, primarily by adding the countries of Central Asia to it.

Some believe that Russia’s interests in Afghanistan’s political situation and the thaw in ties between Russians and the Taliban would further complicate the war in Afghanistan. However, at the Moscow meeting, the Russians made it clear that they consider the government of Afghanistan as the legitimate representative of the Afghan people, and not the Taliban. The Russians added that they maintained contacts with the Taliban only due to their concerns and with intention to support Afghan government in potential peace talks.

Indian Response:

The Indian side was represented by MEA Joint Secretary (PIA Division) Shri Gopal Bagley. As regard the talks, India is concerned and has been observing Russia-led efforts for talks with Taliban, with officials apprehensive about the normalisation of the terror groups which continues to have strings attached to Pakistan military establishment.

The argument that Taliban was fighting with ISIS in pockets of Afghanistan did not find many takers in New Delhi, as Indian officials believe that most of the IS fighters are mainly repurposed Taliban members. India had pointedly pronounced during the discussions that Afghanistan should have the right to choose with whom to hold talks and that the choice should not be dictated by other countries.

India on its part noted that “it was essential to end all forms of terrorism and extremism that beset Afghanistan and our region and to ensure denial of territory or any other support, safe havens or sanctuaries to any terrorist group or individual in countries of our region.”

Both Afghanistan and India highlighted the need to combat “safe havens” across the border.

India on its part noted that “it was essential to end all forms of terrorism and extremism that beset Afghanistan and our region and to ensure denial of territory or any other support, safe havens or sanctuaries to any terrorist group or individual in countries of our region.”

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