India to be represented by envoy at signing of US-Taliban deal
India will be represented by its envoy at the signing of a deal between Taliban and the US on the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, people familiar with developments said on Thursday. The signing of the deal is scheduled for February 29 in Doha.
Ambassador P Kumaran’s presence at the ceremony, however, shouldn’t be interpreted as a sign of India’s involvement in any way with the negotiations with the Taliban or the planned deal, said the people who declined to be named.
“We received an invitation from the Qatar government to attend the event and we will be represented by our envoy,” said a person familiar with the issue.
“India remains committed to an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled peace process that retains the gains and constitutional structures put in place in Afghanistan over the past 19 years,” the person added.
However, this will be the first time India will be officially represented at an event involving the Afghan Taliban. In November 2018, India participated in the second meeting under the “Moscow Format” at a “non-official level” by sending retired ambassadors TCA Raghavan and Amar Sinha.
There has been considerable debate within the Indian government on whether there should be a shift in New Delhi’s position on the Afghan Taliban from having no engagement with the militants who control or contest almost half of Afghanistan’s territory to some form of engagement.
The deal with the Afghan Taliban deal hinges on “reduction of violence” and Afghan and US officials have reported a significant decline in attacks in recent days. The US state department has also announced the two sides are preparing to sign agreement on February 29.
The deal is expected to be followed by intra-Afghan negotiations, which will put in place a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire and the future political roadmap for Afghanistan.
The proposed peace deal with the Taliban figured in discussions during US President Donald Trump’s visit to New Delhi this week, the people cited above said. Trump briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his administration’s plans regarding the deal and the reduction of US troops in Afghanistan to 8,600, the people said.
“The Indian side made it clear the troop drawdown shouldn’t be too precipitate and the US should keep in mind that we shouldn’t lose the gains of the past 19 years in terms of the Constitution, rights of women and minorities and the Afghan National Defence Forces,” said a second person who declined to be named.