New Delhi The US and India said on Tuesday the peace process in Afghanistan must lead to a political roadmap and a permanent ceasefire, and the Afghan sides should ensure that the country’s territory isn’t used by any terrorist group against any country.
This was among the outcomes of a meeting between the US special representative on Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, and external affairs minister S Jaishankar. The meeting was also attended by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and foreign secretary Harsh Shringla.
On Tuesday, Khalilzad travelled to New Delhi from Doha, where representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban have begun the much-delayed intra-Afghan negotiations to hammer out a final political settlement. Khalilzad met Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Bajwa and other senior officials during a visit to Islamabad on Monday, following which he had returned to Doha.
“The United States and India share the view that the peace process must continue until there is agreement on a political roadmap and a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire. The Afghan sides should ensure their territory must not be used by any terrorist group against any other country,” said a statement issued by the US embassy after Tuesday’s meeting.
People familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity that Khalilzad briefed the Indian side about the US assessment of the intra-Afghan negotiations and also shared the American perspective on the Afghan peace process.
“The two sides discussed future steps and possible cooperation between India and the US in furthering the Afghan peace process,” one of the people cited above said.
“They also discussed how to promote regional and international cooperation with regard to Afghanistan,” the person added.
The US embassy statement quoted Khalilzad as saying that regional and international support is critical for the success of the intra-Afghan negotiations and the implementation of any agreement. “India and the US will work together in support of this objective,” he said.
The US and India “expressed similar views on the importance of long-term assistance, trade and investment for consolidating a peace agreement for the benefit of the people of Afghanistan, the region, and beyond”, the statement added.
Khalilzad last travelled to New Delhi to brief the Indian side on developments in the Afghan peace process on May 7, and this was his fifth visit to India since January 2019. He also appreciated India’s participation in the inauguration of the intra-Afghan negotiations in Doha on September 12, the people said.
Tuesday’s discussions reflect the India-US strategic partnership, which provides for close consultations between the two sides on bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual interest, the people cited above said.
During his visit to Islamabad on Monday, Khalilzad had held talks with GenBajwa and Mohammad Sadiq, Pakistan’s special representative for Afghanistan, on regional security and the intra-Afghan talks. Bajwa told him that Prime Minister Imran Khan had provided a “clear vision regarding peace and connectivity in the region” and Pakistan is working to make that vision a reality.
Jaishankar had laid down India’s expectations from the peace process in his address at the inaugural ceremony for the intra-Afghan negotiations on Sunday. He had said New Delhi expects that Afghan soil will never be used for any “anti-India activities”, and it supports an “immediate, comprehensive ceasefire” since the rising levels of violence cannot continue.