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India among 11 countries including China, Pakistan to participate in Taliban-convened meeting

The meeting signals India's growing engagement with the Taliban despite no formal recognition of the Afghan government. Afghanistan's Foreign Ministry said regional countries should hold peace talks to increase and continue positive interaction with Afghanistan.

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Kabul Published on: January 30, 2024 7:38 IST
India, Taliban meeting, China and Pakistan
Image Source : ANI Afghanistan's Taliban-appointed FM Muttaqi, in meeting with representatives of regional countries.

Kabul: In a sign that India is moving closer to engagement with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan despite no official recognition, the Taliban-appointed Afghan Foreign Minister Mawlawi Amir Khan Muttaqi convened a meeting with the ambassadors and heads of diplomatic relations of ten countries, which included New Delhi as well. Other countries to be part of the meeting included Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey and Indonesia.

According to the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Taliban-appointed Foreign Minister stressed that regional countries should hold peace talks to increase and continue positive interaction with Afghanistan and asked participants to take advantage of the emerging opportunities in Afghanistan based on a region-oriented tradition so as to coordinate in managing potential threats.

"Underlying on positive engagement with the countries of the region and the world, FM Muttaqi once again reiterated that there remains no need to appoint a new special representative in the presence of UNAMA and the existence of an independent central government in Afghanistan, urging the participants to convey the message of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan's region-oriented initiative to their countries so that Afghanistan and the region can jointly utilise the new opportunities in the region for the benefit of their governments and nations," said the Afghan Foreign Ministry in a press release.

Indian officials have not commented officially on the meeting in Kabul, but Hafiz Zia Ahmed, deputy spokesman of the Afghan Foreign Ministry, quoting the Indian representative at the meeting, said, "India actively takes part in international and regional initiatives regarding Afghanistan, and supports every effort leading to the stability and the development of Afghanistan."

India's relations with Afghanistan

On January 23, India supplied 40,000 litres of Malathion, a pesticide used to fight locust menaces, to Afghanistan in its continued support of the Taliban-controlled nation via the Chabahar Port. The Ministry of Agriculture in Afghanistan expressed gratitude for the assistance and noted the significance of the drug in the protection of crops and food security in the country. India is the largest donor to Afghanistan with contributions worth $3 billion.

During the Regional Cooperation Initiative meeting on Monday, Muttaqi underscored that Afghanistan is now a "sovereign and safe" country and focused on the need to establish a “region-centric narrative” for constructive engagement between Afghanistan and its regional neighbours, according to Afghan media. The meeting comes before UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is scheduled to host the second conference on Afghanistan in Doha next month.

When the Taliban took over power in Afghanistan in 2021 following the US withdrawal, India pulled out all its diplomats and officials from the country and has not yet recognised the Taliban government. However, it re-established its diplomatic presence in Afghanistan by deploying a technical team at the embassy in 2022.

India's development partnership with Afghanistan has included more than 500 projects spread across each of the 34 provinces of the war-torn country in critical areas of power, water supply, road connectivity, healthcare, education, agriculture and capacity building. However, India has repeatedly called on the Taliban administration to ensure that Afghan soil is not used for terrorist activities and also for the formation of an inclusive government structure.

India's careful engagement with the Taliban government stems from its substantial investments in Afghanistan and the deepening ties between the government and countries like Iran, Pakistan, Russia and China. Several Indian diplomats have interacted with Taliban officials in other countries and at multilateral meetings.

(with ANI inputs)

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