New Delhi: In a meeting with a visiting top American official in New Delhi on the Afghan peace process, India on Thursday reiterated its “continued support for strengthening ... the democratic and inclusive polity and protection of rights of all sections of the Afghan society, including Afghan Hindus and Sikhs”, adding that it is “deeply concerned at the upsurge in violence and supports the call for immediate ceasefire and need to assist the people of Afghanistan in dealing with coronavirus pandemic”.
In a veiled reference towards Pakistan, New Delhi also told the US official that “putting an end to terrorist safe havens and sanctuaries is necessary for enduring and sustainable peace and stability in Afghanistan”. This was conveyed by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval in a meeting with visiting United States’ Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad who landed in New Delhi on Thursday.
Khalilzad reportedly gave them an “update on the US peace and reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan”, the MEA said on Thursday, in a statement, adding that “the US side recognised India's constructive contribution in economic development, reconstruction and humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan” and “laid importance to India's crucial and continuing role in sustainable peace, security and stability in Afghanistan”.
Khalilzad is travelling to Qatar and Pakistan too to discuss the Afghan peace process, the US State Department also announced earlier, adding that he would meet “Indian officials” in New Delhi “to discuss the important role of India in sustainable peace in Afghanistan and the region”. He is travelling to Qatar to meet Taliban representatives to “press for full implementation of the US-Taliban Agreement”, the US said.
It may be recalled that India had last month “welcomed the announcement” by the Afghan Government on formation of a team for intra-Afghan negotiations with the Taliban, and had referred to the need to free that nation of the “scourge of externally-sponsored terrorism”, seen as a veiled reference to Pakistan which backs the Taliban.
Prime minister Narendra Modi has been in constant touch with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. India currently has extremely close ties with Afghanistan under president Ghani and New Delhi has successfully undertaken vast development projects there in the past few years, earning much goodwill from the Afghan people. India has also been supplying essential life-saving drugs and medicines to help Afghanistan battle the Coronavirus pandemic.