India backs Afghanistan peace talks but remains wary of Taliban-ISI links

NEW DELHI: As the Taliban sat down in Doha for its first real and direct engagement with the Afghan government for peace, India participated in the inaugural session of the negotiations with foreign minister S Jaishankar underscoring the need for addressing the issue of violence in the war-torn country and its neighbourhood.
Without naming Pakistan, or any Pakistan based terror group with links to the Afghan Taliban, Jaishankar said that India's expectation was that the soil of Afghanistan is never used for anti-India activities.
The intra-Afghan Afghan talks followed the US peace deal with the Taliban in February that bypassed the elected government in Kabul. Unlike then, when India’s ambassador to Qatar participated in the event, a senior-level delegation led by MEA’s joint secretary for PAI (Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran) division J P Singh travelled to Doha on this occasion to attend the inaugural ceremony.
Explained: What Taliban-Afghan talks mean for India
In his virtual address, while calling for immediate and comprehensive ceasefire, Jaishankar said that India’s policy on Afghanistan had been consistent. He said India believed any peace process must be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled, has to respect the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of Afghanistan and preserve the progress made in the establishment of a democratic Islamic Republic in Afghanistan.
Significantly, he added, the interests of minorities, women and vulnerable sections of society must be preserved and the issue of violence across the country and its neighbourhood had to be effectively addressed.
India remains concerned about the Taliban’s links with Pakistan’s ISI and efforts by the latter to use the Haqqani network to target India’s interests in the country, although Pakistan is said to no longer enjoy the kind of influence over the Taliban as in the past. As Jaishankar highlighted in his speech, India has been a major development partner of Afghanistan with over 400 completed projects in all 34 provinces of Afghanistan.
Islamabad, which facilitated the US-Taliban peace agreement earlier, patted itself on the back Saturday with its foreign minister S M Qureshi, in his address on the occasion, saying the negotiations were a fruit of Pakistan and Afghanistan's "combined efforts".
India has been wary of the links with Taliban of terror groups like JeM and LeT. A UN report had said earlier this year that LeT and JeM fighters were " co-located" with Taliban in Afghanistan. After another round of counter-terrorism dialogue this week, India and the US had in a joint statement this underlined the urgent need for Pakistan to take "immediate, sustained, and irreversible" action to ensure that no territory under its control was used for terrorist attacks, and to expeditiously bring to justice the perpetrators of such attacks, including 26/11 Mumbai and Pathankot.
Jaishankar also referred to the millennia old relationship between India and Afghanistan which, he said, had withstood the test of time.
According to MEA, the minister’s participation was in response to an invitation extended to him by the deputy PM Prime and foreign minister of Qatar Mohammad bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani.
Jaishankar also wished for the success of the intra-Afghan negotiations in delivering to the people of Afghanistan what, he said, they have longed for - a peaceful and prosperous future in an independent and sovereign nation. 



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