India to send envoy for US-Taliban deal signing in Doha

India will send envoy to witness US-Taliban deal signing in Doha

Trump discussed with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Government the contours of the proposed US-Taliban deal during his visit to New Delhi last Tuesday.

India will send a representative to witness the signing of a peace deal between the United States and Taliban of Afghanistan in Doha on Saturday – notwithstanding its concern over the possibility of the withdrawal of international troops from the war-torn country resulting in a strategic advantage to Pakistan.

P Kumaran, New Delhi's envoy to Doha, will represent the Government of India in the ceremony to mark the signing of the deal in the capital of Qatar, sources told the DH.

New Delhi decided to send a representative to the signing ceremony after it received an invitation from Qatar government, which had been facilitating the talks between the US and the Taliban in Doha over the past few years.

The deal the American President Donald Trump's administration is set to sign with Afghan Taliban in Doha on Saturday will set the stage for withdrawal of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) from Afghanistan – almost two decades after an offensive led by the US dislodged the radical militants from power in the conflict-ravaged country.

Trump discussed with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government the contours of the proposed US-Taliban deal during his visit to New Delhi last Tuesday.

Modi conveyed to Trump that the international community should ensure that the progress made by Afghanistan in the past 18 years in its pursuit of peace, democracy and gender equality would be preserved after the withdrawal of the US-led force from the war-torn country.

India is also concerned over the possibility of the deal paving the way for Pakistan to gain a “strategic depth” in Afghanistan.

India and the United States “share interest in a united, sovereign, democratic, inclusive, stable and prosperous Afghanistan”, according to a joint statement issued after the meeting between the two leaders in New Delhi. “They support an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process that results in sustainable peace; cessation of violence; elimination of terrorist safe havens, and preservation of the gains of the last 18 years”.

The US President welcomed India’s role in continuing to provide development and security assistance to help stabilize and provide connectivity in Afghanistan.

India over the past few years contributed over $ 3 billion to support reconstruction of infrastructure in Afghanistan. It, however, refrained from sending troops to Afghanistan and kept its military support to the conflict-hit country limited to providing training to officials and soldiers of Afghan National Army and supply of non-lethal defence hardware. It was in December 2015 that India started providing MI-25 helicopters to give some teeth to the Afghan Air Force.

New Delhi, however, has been concerned over the US-led peace-process in Afghanistan as it is likely to lead to the integration of the Taliban into the governance structure in the conflict-torn South Asian nation. India has been worried about the possibility of Taliban re-imposing strict Sharia Law in Afghanistan, apart from providing support to terrorist organizations, which carry out attacks in India from bases in Pakistan.

Pakistan has since long been jittery about India's role in reconstruction of conflict-torn Afghanistan. The terror outfits based in Pakistan carried out several attacks on India's embassy and consulates in Afghanistan in the past. Indian citizens working in development projects in Afghanistan were also targeted by the terrorists.

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