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Not in direct talks with Taliban: MEA 

Not in direct talks with Taliban: MEA 

News:

  1. Amid reports of a significant shift in stance with India attending talks with the Taliban at the second 12-nation ‘Moscow format meeting of consultations on Afghanistan’ in Moscow, the Ministry of External Affairs has clarified that no direct conversation between the two sides was part of the agenda.

Important Facts:

  1. Russia has invited a group of senior Afghan politicians to talks with the Taliban in Moscow, in which India would be participating at a “non-official” level by sending two former senior diplomats to Moscow.
  2. The delegations from India, Pakistan, the U.S., China, Iran and five Central Asian Republics including Uzbekistan and the Taliban will be attending the multilateral peace talks.
  3. It will mark the first time an Indian delegation has been present at the table in talks with the Taliban representatives.
  4. The talks, known as the “Moscow format” will include a “high-level” delegation from the Taliban as well as a delegation of Afghanistan “High Peace Council”, along with twelve countries.
  5. It is aimed at building an inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue in order to advance the national reconciliation process.
  6. USA and Pakistan have also agreed to send their representatives to peace process.

  1. Background:
  • The talks has come at a time when the Afghan government is struggling to recover control of districts lost to Taliban insurgents while casualties among security forces have reached record levels.
  • Hamid Karzai, former Prez of Afghanistan, who ran the country for 13 years following the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001 has become a vocal critic of US policy, and is among those planning to travel to Moscow.
  • Karzai believes that Washington is using Afghanistan as a client state to keep an eye on its foes Iran, Russia and China and Pakistan.
  • Diplomatic engagement between the Taliban and the US gained mome­ntum recently after US special envoy for peace in Afghanistan met Taliban leaders in Qatar. But many Afghan politicians expressed concern that they have been left out of the process.
  1. Afghanistan stand:
  • It has angered officials in Kabul who say it could muddle the U.S.-backed peace process in Afghanistan.
  • According to officials in Kabul, holding talks with Taliban at multiple forums will further complicate the peace process backed by the U.S.
  1. Shift in India’s stand vis-a-vis Taliban:
  • India had refused to recognise the Taliban government in Afghanistan (1996-2001) and had opposed talks with the Taliban at least until a few years ago, insisting thus far on an “Afghan-owned, Afghan-led and controlled” process.
  • It would mark the first time an Indian delegation would be at the table with a Taliban delegation from its political office in Doha since the IC-814 hijack in 1999 .
  • According to government officials said that the decision was the outcome of “close discussions with the Afghanistan government,” and it was felt necessary for India to have a “presence” there.
  • India would have preferred a direct process between the Ghani government and the Taliban, but since that is not possible, a regional process like the one in Russia is the next best option.

  1. Significance:
  • The Moscow talks underline the increasingly active role Russia is playing in Afghanistan, decades after Soviet forces withdrew from the country, with business investment plans, diplomatic and cultural outreach, and small military support for the central government.
  • In 2014, it reopened a cultural center in Kabul. Since 2016, it has provided thousands of Kalashnikov rifles to the Afghan government.
  • Karzai noted that peace negotiations also need to involve regional powers, most notably Russia and China as well as neighbors including Iran to make the negotiation process more holistic and consensus-based.
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