Abdullah Abdullah, who helms the country’s reconciliation council, thanks India for help.
In a sign of India’s increased engagement with the ongoing Intra-Afghan Dialogue, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a meeting with Chairman of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR) Abdullah Abdullah, who is here on a 5-day visit. During the talks, Mr. Abdullah briefed the Prime Minister on the deliberations in Doha between the Afghan government and civil society representatives with Taliban representatives.
“Prime Minister Modi reiterated India’s commitment towards sustainable peace and prosperity in Afghanistan and welcomed efforts towards a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire in Afghanistan,” said a statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).
Mr. Abdullah, who met National Security Advisor Ajit Doval over dinner on Wednesday, will meet External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on Friday, it said.
Addressing diplomats and scholars at an address organised by the Manohar Parrikar Institute of Defence and Strategic Analysis (MPIDSA), Mr. Abdullah said he had been “energised and re-energised” by India’s support to the people of Afghanistan “achieving a dignified durable and sustainable peace”. He expressed gratitude for the $3billion aid India has disbursed for projects across Afghanistan since 2001.
When asked about his visit to Islamabad last week and whether India-Pakistan tensions would affect his mission for “regional consensus” for the IAN (Intra Afghan Negotiations), he said that Afghans would pursue their own “national interest”.
“We need better relations with all countries. It is not our policy to decide the policies that other countries pursue towards each other, but we believe that peace in Afghanistan is in everyone’s interest,” he said, adding that Mr. Modi had assured him that India would support any peace agreement that was agreeable to the people of Afghanistan.
The MEA also said that Mr. Doval discussed “increased levels of violence across Afghanistan” and peace and security in the region when he called on Mr. Abdullah.
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While the delegation from Kabul has been hopeful of a declaration of a permanent ceasefire with the beginning of talks last month, the Taliban has refused to agree to one thus far. According to US agency SIGAR (Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction), civilian casualties in Afghanistan had increased nearly 60% between April-June 2020 over the previous quarter, despite the U.S.-Taliban accord being signed in February.
More engagement with Kabul
With two new officials, including Joint Secretary (Pakistan-Afghanistan-India) J.P. Singh and new Ambassador in Kabul Rudrendra Tandon being appointed within the MEA, New Delhi is signalling an uptick in its engagement with Afghanistan. Last month, Mr. Jaishankar addressed the inauguration of the Intra-Afghan talks, and sent a team to Doha, the first time an Indian official has addressed a gathering that includes the Taliban. Mr. Jaishankar also met with former Afghanistan Vice-President Rashid Dostum in September, in a sign that the government is reaching out to other parts of the Afghan leadership.
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“India has significant role to play in advising and counselling unity and creating a common platform that represents the aspirations of new Afghanistan. Preserving unity is key to any negotiation and likely outcomes,” former Ambassador to Afghanistan Amar Sinha told The Hindu.
Mr. Abdullah, who was formerly the CEO of Afghanistan, is visiting Delhi several months after his last visit, when he contested the outcome of presidential elections, which President Ashraf Ghani won. After months of legal wrangling, the two leaders agreed to a compromise, where Mr. Abdullah accepted the role as chief of the HCNR.