US special representative for Afghan peace process Zalmay Khalilzad is visiting India on Tuesday and is scheduled to meet top officials in New Delhi to discuss the current situation in Afghanistan after the intra-Afghan talks that started on Sunday in Doha.
He had visited India in May this year and met External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and NSA Ajit Doval.
The talks were held between the Taliban and the Afghan national unity government and are being hailed as a major breakthrough. India too sent its representative in the figure of J P Singh, MEA’s joint secretary for Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran (PAI) affairs, who met Afghanistan’s former CEO and head of Afghan peace process Abdullah Abdullah. “Had a good meeting with J. P. Singh, JS (PAI), Ministry of External Affairs of India in Doha-Qatar. We took stock of the developments on the peace efforts, & the need for genuine regional & international support for talks. I also thanked India for its continued support,” Abdullah tweeted.
India’s participation in the discussions with the Taliban are being seen as a calibrated shift in its position vis-à-vis the latter because it had not taken part in the negotiations with the Afghan group in the recent past.
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar joined the ceremony through video link and, on his part, told the gathering that the peace process must be “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled”, “respect national sovereignty and territorial integrity of Afghanistan” and “promote human rights and democracy”. He was conspicuous by his omission to any reference to externally sponsored terrorism, especially that directed from Pakistan.
Since the American invasion of 2001, when the Taliban was unseated from power, the Afghan state has seen many regimes starting from that of Hamid Karzai. But the Taliban still control a big chunk of the country and have a strong cultural impact dating back to their years in power (1996-2001).