AP Interview: Top Afghan negotiator lauds India's support

NEW DELHI (AP) - Afghanistan's chief peace ambassador said on Saturday that the civilian and military leadership of India supports an inclusive, peaceful settlement of the Afghan peace process and that Kabul's interactions with New Delhi are expected to deepen in the coming weeks and months .
In an interview with The Associated Press in the Indian capital, Abdullah Abdullah said that while the issue of Afghanistan engages the international community at large, he hopes India will play an important role in the peace process by using “the voices of tolerance and coexistence promotes. ”
"India is also committed to a peaceful Afghanistan that is at peace within the country, and a democratic Afghanistan that does not contain terrorist groups," said Abdullah. "This is in line with the aspirations of the people of Afghanistan and the sacrifices our people have made." for this."
Abdullah's New Delhi visit comes at a crucial time for India as it seeks to consolidate its efforts to protect its strategic interests in Afghanistan amid Pakistan's growing influence in the region and the anticipated withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. It also signals a gradual change in the Indian approach to dealing with the Afghan peace process to which it was first invited, which began two years ago.
As head of the High Council for National Reconciliation in Afghanistan, Abdullah supervises the government during the negotiations. This is his first visit to India after the formation of the new government in Kabul following last year's elections.
Abdullah's trip to India, a week after his visit to Pakistan, comes as Kabul's government negotiators meet with Taliban officials in Qatar to plan a future course for a post-war Afghanistan.
At a luxury hotel in New Delhi, Abdullah said he was encouraged by the talks with the Indian leadership on "peace and stability in the region".
He said the Indian leadership had assured him that India would support any settlement acceptable to the Afghan people.
Abdullah, who landed in India on Tuesday, has so far met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and other high-ranking Indian officials, including Army Chief Bipin Rawat.
A statement released Thursday by the Indian Foreign Ministry said that Modi had "called for India's commitment to sustainable peace and prosperity in Afghanistan and welcomed efforts to achieve a comprehensive and lasting ceasefire in Afghanistan" at his meeting with Abdullah.
Over the years India has provided the Afghan security forces with operational training and military equipment even though no troops were on the ground. It is the region's largest development aid provider to Afghanistan and has raised concerns about Taliban violence on many occasions.
Yet India has long hesitated to participate directly in the peace talks in Afghanistan. However, previous visits to India by the US Special Envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, and senior Afghan politician Abdul Rashid Dostum have signaled New Delhi's new willingness to play a bigger role in the peace process.
In May, Khalilzad called for India to play a stronger role in the Afghan peace process and urged New Delhi to deal directly with the Taliban.
On September 12, an Indian delegation attended the opening ceremony of the intra-Afghan negotiations in Doha. The ceremony was also attended virtually by Jaishankar. His participation was seen by many observers as India's reluctance to work directly with the Afghan government and the Taliban.
When Abdullah responded to President Donald Trump's allegations on Thursday that he claimed that all US troops would be leaving Afghanistan by the end of the year, he said, although he did not know the details of the announcement, an early withdrawal “could result. "
"We are not aware of the reality on the ground, but it will not lead to one side prevailing against the other," said Abdullah, adding that the rise in violence in the region is hampering a peaceful settlement of the conflict.
Abdullah admitted on Saturday that the Taliban are expected to have a significant impact on what the future state of Afghanistan will look like, but said it was in his country's interests for the state to build and strengthen its ties in the region and beyond .
"We are talking about a situation in which the Taliban must play a role together with the rest of the Afghan people, while taking many different points of view, but at the same time accepting the fundamental fact that there is no solution or a winner through war," said Abdullah.
He also called for a "humanitarian ceasefire" to allow Afghanistan and its international partners to tackle some key issues such as rampant corruption and an underfunded education system that observers say have long plagued the country.
"The sooner we come to an agreement, the better it will be for the people of Afghanistan to put an end to not only violence and suffering, but also issues related to people's concerns," said Abdullah.

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