Qatar envoy says India officials met Taliban; Jaishankar points to no dip in Afghan violence

Even as a senior diplomat from Qatar has said that there has been a “quiet visit” by Indian officials “to speak with the Taliban”, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar Tuesday underlined the intra-Afghan talks have not resulted in a reduction of violence in Afghanistan. The minister also said that “any political settlement” in Afghanistan must “preserve the constitutional democratic framework”.

Addressing the UN Security Council on Tuesday through virtual mode, Jaishankar said, “India has been supportive of all the efforts being made to accelerate the dialogue between the Afghan government and the Taliban, including the intra-Afghan negotiations. If the peace process is to be successful, then it is necessary to ensure that the negotiating parties continue to engage in good faith, eschew the path to find a military solution, and fully commit towards reaching a political solution. A tangible demonstration of this commitment is required.”

This came a day after Qatar’s special envoy for counter-terrorism and conflict resolution, Mutlaq bin Majed al-Qahtani, said that he believed the Indian side was engaging with the Taliban as the group is seen as a “key component” in any future government in Afghanistan.

Al-Qahtani, who was participating in a virtual discussion organised by the Arab Center Washington DC on the theme “Looking towards peace in Afghanistan after the US-NATO withdrawal”, made the remarks on Monday.

“I understand that there has been a quiet visit by Indian officials…to speak with the Taliban. Why? Because not everybody is believing that the Taliban will dominate and take over, because Taliban is a key component of, or should be or is going to be a key component of the future of Afghanistan,” Al-Qahtani said.

There was no official confirmation from the Indian government of the Indian officials travelling to Doha and meeting the Taliban.

Jaishankar had made two transit stop-overs in Doha, Qatar, during his recent visits to Kuwait and Kenya. During the first halt on June 9, Jaishankar met Qatari National Security Adviser Mohamed Bin Ahmed Al Mesned.

During another transit halt on June 15, Jaishankar met Qatari foreign minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani and minister of state for defence Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiya. He also held talks with US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and exchanged perspectives on Afghanistan and the region.

At the UNSC, Jaishankar on Tuesday said that India welcomes any move towards a genuine political settlement and a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire in Afghanistan. “We support a leading role for the United Nations, since that would help improve the odds for a lasting and durable outcome,” he said. He also reiterated India’s support for an “inclusive, Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled peace process”.

“Any political settlement in Afghanistan must ensure that the gains of the last two decades are protected, and not reversed. It should, therefore, preserve the constitutional democratic framework and ensure the protection of rights of women, children and minorities,” he said.

For enduring peace in Afghanistan, he said, “terrorist safe havens and sanctuaries must be dismantled immediately and terrorist supply chains disrupted”. “There needs to be zero tolerance for terrorism in all its forms and manifestations including its cross-border one,” he said, in an oblique reference to Pakistan.

“It is equally important to ensure that the territory of Afghanistan is not used by terrorist groups to threaten or attack any other country. Those providing material and financial support to terrorist entities must be held accountable,” the minister said.

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