US wants India to talk directly to Taliban: Khalilzad

By: News Desk      Published: 04:51 PM, 9 May, 2020
US wants India to talk directly to Taliban: Khalilzad

US peace envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, during visit to Delhi said that India should discuss its concerns about terrorism directly with the Taliban.

Khalilzad said that he had discussed how India could play a “more active role” in the Afghan reconciliation process. “India is an important force in Afghanistan, and it would be appropriate for that [India-Taliban] engagement to take place,” Khalilzad told The Hindu in an exclusive interview.

He also said India had a “significant role” in Afghanistan’s development, but, paradoxically, it doesn’t play a role in the international peace efforts. “India and Afghanistan have historic ties, and I believe that dialogue between India and the Taliban is important, and it would be important that issues of concern like this [terrorism] are raised directly,” he added.

This is the first time the US has publicly suggested an engagement between India and the Taliban, according to The Hindu.

“Lengthy meeting overnight with Mullah Baradar and his team in Doha. We sought progress on a range of topics: a reduction in violence, humanitarian ceasefire as demanded by the international community to allow for better cooperation on managing COVID-19 pandemic in Afghanistan, acceleration of prisoner releases by both sides, actions necessary to secure the freedom of US citizen Mark Frerichs, regional and international support for the peace process, and movement to intra-Afghan negotiations ASAP," Khalilzad tweeted, adding: "Will meet again after my trip to India and Pakistan."

In another interview, Zalmay Khalilzad told Times Now that the United States wants India to participate in the Afghan peace process, but there has been no discussion about having Indian troops in Kabul.

Khalilzad said he had a "very good meeting and the focus was Indian involvement in international efforts in the support of peace in Afghanistan and we discussed alternatives and how best India, which has an important role in Afghanistan on what happens... We exchanged views on the options... The United States is supportive of India playing its role in the quest for peace".

"India is supportive. It is going to think about the alternatives and we need to continue regular exchanges and I hope that we will reach an agreement on which one among the options are best for India to participate in and we support Indian involvement."

Dubbing the discussion with External Affairs Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar, and the National Security Adviser, Ajit Doval, as "substantive, very positive and constructive," the US envoy noted that there was no discussion on the issue of Indian troops in Afghanistan. 

Khalilzad said that the discussion was about "the peace process in the aftermath of the US-Taliban deal being implemented, the state of violence in Afghanistan, the spread of coronavirus, inter-Afghan negotiations and the alternatives".

"Pakistan and Afghanistan are neighbours. The territories should not be used against each other by groups on behalf of one or the other. Peace in Afghanistan opens the door for more positive relations (and) opportunities between Afghanistan and Pakistan, between Afghanistan and other neighbours.”

Khalilzad said peace in Afghanistan would be a positive for Central and South Asia in order to improve regional trade and regional economic cooperation and competition.

“So, Afghanistan can open regional relations from zero-sum to non-zero-sum. We are hopeful that the Afghan peace process will make progress and the international community and the regional powers will also be supportive of these efforts. Peace in Afghanistan can succeed if the regional powers and the neighbours support it.”

So, will the peace process in Afghanistan be good for India? Yes, said Khalilzad. “It will be good for India, it will be good for the entire world. Remember that the United States and the coalition forces came to Afghanistan because of the terrorist attack by Al-Qaeda on the US on 9/11".