Afghan Foreign Minister to visit India

at 7:41 pm

New Delhi (NVI): Afghan Foreign Minister Haneef Atmar will visit New Delhi on March 22 to discuss with Indian leaders the critically-poised issue concerning his country, days after Russia hosted a multi-nation conference where India was not invited.

Atmar will have detailed discussions with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar during the visit. He is expected to apprise Jaishankar about the deliberations of the conference held in Moscow yesterday, which was attended by Foreign Ministers of the US, Russia, China, and Pakistan, besides Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and leaders of Taliban.

Russia, host of the multi-nation conference called the ‘expanded Troika’ did not invite India, toeing the Pakistani line that New Delhi has no direct stakes in Afghanistan. Russia’s attitude is conspicuous considering that it has been India’s traditional partner.

Atmar’s visit to New Delhi also assumes significance as the US has proposed a UN-led multi-nation conference on Afghanistan to be held next month. India is to be one of the invitees for the conference along with the US, Russia, China, Pakistan and Iran.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a letter to the Afghan President earlier this month, wrote that, “It is my belief that these countries share an abiding common interest in a stable Afghanistan and must work together if we are to succeed.”

Blinken also pushed Ghani to form an “inclusive” government, by making Taliban a partner in the regime. This has enraged the Ghani government, which wants to have no truck with the Taliban, which is an extremist and terrorist outfit.

Turkey is also planning to host a conference on Afghanistan next month.

The conferences are taking place at a time when the US is set to completely withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by May 1 as per an agreement signed by it with Taliban on February 29 last year.

Though the agreement was signed by the previous Trump Administration, incumbent President Joe Biden, who took over on January 20 this year, is inclined to carry out the withdrawal but says that meeting the May 1 deadline looks “tough”.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has appointed Jean Arnault of France as a personal envoy on Afghanistan and the region to help find a political solution to the Afghan conflict.

“The responsibilities of the Personal Envoy include to liaise, on behalf of the Secretary-General, with regional countries with the aim of supporting the negotiations between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban and implementation of any agreements which are reached,” U.N. spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said.

At the Moscow conference, the US, Russia, China, and Pakistan asked the Taliban to abandon its planned ‘Spring Offensive’, which is an annual feature of stepped up attacks after the winter gets over.

The demand was part of a joint statement issued after the day-long conference.