By Amit Agnihotri
New Delhi: Days after Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani‘s cousin was shot dead in capital Kabul, India today stressed before a group of 20 countries that ending terrorist sanctuaries and safe havens is an essential prerequisite for durable peace in the troubled country.
India has had good relations with Afghanistan and is a key stakeholder in pushing peace in the strife-torn country, where several terror groups including Al-Qaeda and home grown Taliban are still active.
Over the past years, India has been expressing concern over the terrorist safe havens along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan and the nexus between the Taliban and Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI, which has a history of pushing terrorists in India as well. The United States has also shared concern over the matter.
In February, US President Donald J. Trump had pledged to cut down US troopers in Afghanistan to 8,600. That target has been achieved. In return, the Taliban had promised to cut ties with Al-Qaeda and enter into intra-Afghan negotiations with the Afghanistan government. There seems to be little progress on that front.
A recent Pentagon report said the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region remains a sanctuary for various groups, including Al-Qaeda Core, Al-Qaeda in Indian sub-continent, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, and ISIS-Khorasan. The United States is wary of Al-Qaida elements attacking the US forces and the Afghan government.
In May, India had welcomed the political agreement concluded by the political leadership in Kabul and expressed concern over the then prevailing violence. India had expressed hope that the political agreement and creation of the High Council of National Reconciliation will result in renewed efforts for establishing enduring peace and stability and putting an end to externally sponsored terrorism and violence.
“India highlighted the fact that in order to achieve durable peace in Afghanistan, putting an end to terrorist sanctuaries and safe havens is an essential prerequisite,” India’s Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement after participating in a meeting of regional partners on Afghanistan – ‘Strengthening Consensus for Peace’. India was represented by Joint Secretary (Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran) J. P. Singh in the external affairs ministry.
The United Nations also participated in the discussion, which veered around issues concerning Afghan peace and reconciliation process and support of the regional partners to an independent, unified, democratic and sovereign Afghanistan.
India is one of the largest development partners of Afghanistan and has committed more than $3 billion worth of works in that country since 2001. A couple of days ago, India signed five agreements to develop educational infrastructure in Afghanistan.
India’s peace efforts have been backed by the US as well. Recently, a Pentagon report noted India’s role in Afghanistan saying “significant deterioration of security conditions in Afghanistan, however, may adversely affect the ability of India to provide aid.”
In today’s meeting, India reiterated the importance of an inclusive, Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, Afghan-controlled peace and reconciliation process and expressed support for a constitutional order in Afghanistan, which would protect the interest of all sections of society, including women, children and minorities.
Ghani, who is trying to work out a peace deal with the Taliban had last month announced a fresh round of consultations in Doha, Qatar with the hardcore group. India had earlier expressed concern over attacks on Afghan Sikhs.