No official delegation at Afghan peace meeting

No official delegation at Afghan peace meeting

Raveesh Kumar, official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs.

India has decided against sending an official delegation to attend a conclave to be hosted by Russia in Moscow on Friday.

The move comes ostensibly because India didn't want its representatives to share a table with the emissaries of Taliban.

New Delhi, however, will send a “non-official” delegation to the meeting, which is being hosted to discuss ways to start a peace process in the war-ravaged country of Afghanistan.

“Our participation at the meeting will be at the non-official level,” Raveesh Kumar, official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), said in New Delhi on Thursday.

Sources told the DH that the “non-official” delegation will comprise two retired diplomats. They would however convey New Delhi's concerns over Pakistan's role in supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan as well as other terrorist organisations operating across the region, including the ones carrying out attacks in India.

On the other hand, Taliban is sending a five-member delegation from its office at Doha, Qatar.

In the meeting's previous version held in April 2017, New Delhi had sent a serving diplomat— a joint secretary in the MEA— to the first multilateral meeting hosted by Russia on Afghanistan.

“India supports all efforts at peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan that will preserve unity and plurality, and bring security, stability and prosperity to the country,” Kumar said.

“India's consistent policy has been that such efforts should be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, and Afghan-controlled and with participation of the government of Afghanistan,” he added in a statement issued on Thursday.

India's move is apparently aimed at balancing its relations with Russia and the United States.

The US is not keen to allow Russia to play a prominent role in the peace process in Afghanistan. The officials of president Donald Trump's administration in the past have accused Moscow of providing logistical support to the Taliban.

The US will send an official from its embassy to “observe the discussion” at the Friday's meeting— a move ostensibly aimed at keeping its participation low profile.

The US itself is set to hold a multilateral conference on the Afghan situation in Geneva later this month.

The Afghan government too decided not to send an official delegation to the meeting. Afghanistan would be represented by a delegation of the High Peace Council, a quasi-government body set up to promote peace and reconciliation.