M. Ashraf Haidari
India and Afghanistan took a hard line at the six-nation talks in Moscow on Wednesday, opposing the dominant view from Russia, China and Pakistan to involve the Taliban in reconciliation efforts.
Briefing the media about the outcome of the talks that were held between senior officials of all the countries, that also included Iran, External Affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup said that denying “safe havens or sanctuaries to any terrorist group or individual in countries of our region,” was essential to stabilising the situation in Afghanistan.
Reconciliation efforts must be driven by the Afghanistan government and could only be facilitated by “friends and well wishers of Afghanistan,” he said, indicating that the previous round of QCG (Quadrilateral Cooperation Group) hosted by Pakistan was not acceptable.
Without naming Pakistan, Afghanistan’s representative at the talks, M. Ashraf Haidari, who is the Director General of Policy and Strategy in the MFA, said that it was necessary to “effect a change in the behaviour of certain state actors” in order to end the violence that has reached record levels in the last year.
Referring to Pakistan’s stand on “good/bad Taliban” echoed by officials in Moscow, and the talks between China and Taliban officials last year, he said: “The key challenge to the process remains a policy selectivity by some to distinguish between good and bad terrorists, even though terrorism is a common threat that confronts the whole region, where if one of us doesn’t stand firm against it, others’ counter-terrorism efforts will not bear the results we all seek.”
Another point of contention that emerged was over the composition of the talks hosted by Russia. Afghanistan made a strong pitch for the United States to be included as one of its most important partners. It said it was a necessary part of all processes to “end war and usher in sustainable peace in Afghanistan”.
With U.S. troop levels down to their lowest of about 8,400 at the end of President Obama’s tenure, Afghanistan’s government has been hoping President Trump will increase assistance to the country.
However, in its final statement at the end of the conference, the Russian government said it proposed to extend the conference to Central Asian states, and didn’t mention the United States.