Jaishankar discussed Afghanistan with Qatari leadership, Khalilzad

India’s role in development projects, vaccine supplies figured in talks

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar held talks on the situation in Afghanistan during two stopovers in Doha this week, the Ministry of External Affairs said, referring to his meetings with Qatari leaders and U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad.

According to sources, Mr. Jaishankar discussed ways for India and other countries involved in the reconciliation process to cooperate through the U.S. troops pullout over the next few months and in the post-pullout situation. He met the Qatari National Security Advisor and Foreign Minister, who are key to the process as the Taliban is headquartered in Doha, in two separate meetings during his transits during flights from Kuwait and return from Kenya.

“US Spl representative for Afghanistan reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad happened to be in Doha during EAM’s visit and he called on EAM to brief him on recent developments in Afghanistan,” MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi told journalists during a briefing.

Mr. Khalilzad was on a visit to the region including Kabul, Doha, and Nur-Sultan (Kazakhstan’s capital) where he discussed plans for the pullout. The Istanbul process, that had been proposed by the U.S. for further Afghan-Taliban talks that would have eventually included India and other countries appears to have stalled for the moment, after the Taliban refused to attend.

India has been concerned about the slowdown in the talks as well as a spike in violence against civilians in Afghanistan by the Taliban in the last few weeks, indicating that the Taliban is seeking to control more area even as the U.S. completes its pullout and transfer military bases before September this year.

Turkish President Reccep Erdogan’s proposal to build a new military mission in Afghanistan with Pakistan and Hungary, which he discussed during talks with President Biden at the NATO alliance meeting on Tuesday, is also likely to raise eyebrows in Delhi. According to reports, Turkey has made a bid to use its forces to guard key security installations including Kabul airport.

When asked, the MEA declined to comment on the Turkish proposal, and the possible entry of Pakistani troops into Afghanistan as part of a joint peacekeeping mission post NATO’s pullout.

“We can only speak for ourselves. India has been pro-development, pro-democracy, pro-human rights, pro-progress. It is for the people of Afghanistan to judge each of their partners on how the actions of each their partners have affected the Afghan people,” it said in a possibly veiled criticism of the role of Pakistan in supporting the Taliban and terrorism in Afghanistan.

Sources said the talks between Mr. Jaishankar and Mr. Khalilzad focused on India’s role in development projects, as well as a role in vaccine supplies.

“India has played a very important role in Afghanistan’s economic and social development in the last two decades. It will continue to have a vital role as we work together, and alongside the rest of the international community, to help Afghans achieve peace, security and the economic well being they yearn for and deserve,” tweeted Mr. Khalilzad, who was appointed by former U.S. President Donald Trump to his role, and retained by President Biden, after the meeting on Tuesday.

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