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Talks on Afghanistan, never said with Taliban, MEA spokesperson clarifies

09 November 2018

"India's consistent policy has been that such efforts should be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, and Afghan-controlled, and with the participation of the government of Afghanistan".

Kumar further said that India is just part of the meeting as it supports the reconciliation process.

"A delegation from the HPC, under the leadership of the deputy head of the council Hajji Deen Mohammad will attend the Moscow peace meeting on Afghanistan, the main agenda of the meeting will be the start of direct peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the armed Afghan Taliban".

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The talks, known as the "Moscow format" will include a "high-level" delegation from the Taliban as well as a delegation of Afghanistan's "High Peace Council", along with twelve countries, and will mark the first time an Indian delegation has been present at the table in talks with the Taliban representatives based in Doha.

Moscow on Friday hosted worldwide talks on Afghanistan aimed at kickstarting direct negotiations between Kabul and the Taliban militant group, both of whom sent delegations.

The Moscow-format meeting on Afghanistan will be held on November 9 and representatives of the Afghan Taliban radical movement will take part in it, the Russian Foreign Ministry had said last week. Newly appointed U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has been trying to convince the Taliban to agree to negotiate an end to the war and there are fears the Russian meeting could derail those efforts.

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However, on a question on whether the Indian representatives, TCA Raghavan and Amar Sinha, would be talking to the Taliban agents, Kumar expressed surprise that some media reports had suggested this.

This week the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) said the Afghan government would not be sending a delegation to the summit but a High Peace Council (HPC) official said they would attend the meeting in an independent capacity.

The Russian government welcomed India's decision to participate in the talks on November 9. Regional players like Pakistan, China and Iran are among the participants of the meeting hosted by Russian Federation. On Thursday, the United States said it would send representatives from its embassy in Moscow to the talks; Pakistan is also expected to send a representative. The Taliban is banned from operating in Russian Federation as it is classified as a "terrorist organisation".

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The Moscow meeting was initially scheduled to take place in September but was postponed after Kabul insisted that the process should be Afghan-led. But this time, it has managed to carefully balance Russian and United States interests, as it is sending the Afghan High Peace Council's representatives, instead of its foreign ministry representatives. "This will be assessed at the conference, we hope to convey good news to the people of Afghanistan about direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in the near future", said HPC spokesman Sayed Ehsan Tahiri.