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India attends Doha talks; keeps close eye on Sikh, Hindus in Afghanistan

Tribune News Service
New Delhi, August 12

India on Thursday attended a regional conference on Afghanistan in Doha even as the government continued to closely monitor the situation with a special eye on the Afghan Hindu and Sikh minorities, said MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi.

Three large Asian countries—India along with Turkey and Indonesia—have been asked to join the “Troika Plus” in talks in Doha on Thursday.

The ‘Troika Plus’ comprising the Special Envoys on Afghanistan from the US, Russia, China and Pakistan had met a day earlier with representatives from the Taliban and the Afghan government.

Russian Special Envoy Zamir Kabulov outlined three primary goals of the Afghan settlement—achieve a ceasefire, resume inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue, and form an interim coalition government with elections to be held two years later.

A Taliban delegation in Doha said its priority is to solve problems through negotiations but “other parties” should not create obstacles and referred to recent mass killings and destruction of public places by the Kabul administration.

India was invited during a personal visit by Qatar’s Special Envoy Mutlaq bin Majed Al-Qahtani on August 7, said Bagchi. Joint Secretary (Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran) in the MEA JP Singh represented India at the talks.

On Tuesday, representatives of the UK, China, the EU, the US, Uzbekistan and Pakistan met in Doha.

In Afghanistan, the Indian mission in Kabul continues to remain in touch with its Hindu and Sikh community members. Last year, the embassy had facilitated the travel to India of 383 members of the community.

“We will ensure provision of all necessary assistance to them,” assured the MEA spokesperson.

Asked about contacts with the Taliban, Bagchi said, “The government is in touch with various stakeholders. I won’t say anything beyond this.”

The situation on the ground is “evolving… we are seeing different reportshellip; the ground situation is difficult to understandhellip;the security situation is of concern”, said Bagchi to questions about India’s assessment of the situation in Afghanistan.

The MEA spokesperson said the Taliban seizure of an India-gifted military helicopter in Kunduz “is not something for us to comment on. It wasn’t an IAF ‘copter. This is an internal matter for Afghanistan and I would not like to comment on that aspect”.

Asked about the safety of India-built projects in Afghanistan, Bagchi again pointed out that the projects belong to the government of Afghanistan for the welfare of its people.

“I hope they are not damaged,” he observed.

On Pakistan’s role in fuelling the violence in Afghanistan, the MEA spokesperson said, it should be stopped “if that is happening”.

India has been actively discussing with others the need to stop malign influences from jeopardising the ongoing talks. “The world knows what kind of role Pakistan has played and what they have done,” he observed.

India’s profile has risen after it leveraged its UN Security Council (UNSC) chairmanship by arranging for a discussion on Afghanistan.

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