This will be the first time since 2001 that a serving Indian diplomat will be present in the same room as Taliban representatives
In 2018, New Delhi had sent retired diplomats to a conference hosted by Moscow, where representatives of the Taliban were present
Indian ambassador to Qatar, P. Kumaran, will represent New Delhi on Saturday when the US hopes to sign a peace deal with the Taliban to end the 18-year war in Afghanistan, following a partial truce with the rebel group.
This will be the first time since 2001 that a serving Indian diplomat will be present in the same room as Taliban representatives. In 2018, New Delhi had sent retired diplomats to a conference hosted by Moscow, where representatives of the Taliban were present.
Following the historic deal on 29 February, the US will start withdrawing its troops to wind down Washington’s longest war launched after the September 2001 terrorist attacks. This was a key election promise of US President Donald Trump.
India was opposed to the talks with the Taliban, given its links to Pakistan, as well as any dialogue with the group that bypasses the Afghan government. New Delhi was also critical of any deal that gives away the gains made in the past 18 years since the ouster of the Taliban from Kabul.
Kumaran will attend the conference at the invitation of the Qatar government, two people familiar with the development said requesting anonymity. “As the Afghan government representatives will themselves be there, there is no reason for India not to be represented. India is not there as a negotiator. It is there at the invitation of the Qatar government," said one of the two people mentioned above.
It is unclear how the Pakistan government will react to the presence of an Indian diplomat, considering that Islamabad has always opposed India’s efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.
Last September, the US struck a peace deal with the Taliban after many rounds of negotiations following the death of a US soldier in a suicide-bomb attack in Kabul. Both sides got back to talks in December with US secretary of state Mike Pompeo announcing last week that the deal with the Taliban will be signed on 29 February.
The US and the Taliban have finally agreed to a “reduction in violence" that will enable the signing of the peace accord and the start of talks between the Afghan government and the rebel group.