New Delhi: India on Wednesday welcomed a new initiative unveiled by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to open direct talks with the rebel Taliban but underlined New Delhi’s position that there could be no compromise with terrorism, and adding that action must be taken against those persisting in violence and financing terrorism.
Indian foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale put forth India’s position during a regional meeting—the Kabul Process—as well as during his discussions with Afghanistan’s leadership in the Afghan capital.
Gokhale “conveyed India’s continued commitment to enhanced economic and development partnership; and support for efforts of the people and government of Afghanistan to build a peaceful, stable, secure, prosperous, united inclusive, democratic and pluralistic nation free from the shadow of terrorism," an Indian foreign ministry statement said.
“The foreign secretary conveyed that India welcomed the Afghan government’s call to armed groups to cease violence and join national peace and reconciliation process that would protect the rights of all Afghans, including the women, children and the minorities," it said.
The reference was to Ghani’s call to the Taliban on Wednesday at the regional Kabul Process meet. In his remarks, Ghani also promised to eventually recognise the Taliban a political party, days after the Taliban called for direct negotiations with the US.
The apparent openness by both sides to some form of negotiations came as civilian casualties have soared in recent months, with the Taliban increasingly targeting towns and cities in response to a new and more aggressive US military policy ordered by President Donald Trump in August.
Ghani, in his remarks, called for a truce, after which the Taliban could become a political party and contest elections.
“A ceasefire should be held, the Taliban should be recognised as a political party and trust-building process should be initiated," said Ghani, in remarks similar to past offers.
“Now the decision is in your hands, accept peace... and let’s bring stability to this country," Ghani said. In return, the Afghan president said the militants should officially recognise the Afghan government and constitution, a perennial sticking point in past attempts to open talks.
In his interactions, Gokhale said “there can be no compromise with terrorism and action must be taken against those who continue down the path of violence and those who finance them and provide safe havens and sanctuaries." The remarks though not referring to any group or country in particular, is seen as a reference to Pakistan which is widely believed to support the Taliban through its Inter Services Intelligence spy agency.
“The leadership of Afghanistan deeply appreciated the continued Indian support for peace, development and prosperity of Afghanistan, including the efforts to operationalise Chahbahar Port and establishment of air freight corridors between various cities of India and Afghanistan," the Indian statement said. “It was agreed to work together for implementation of the New Development Partnership" unveiled by India in September under which India is undertaking more than 100 small development projects covering almost all of Afghanistan.