New Delhi, March 30 (IANS) India on Tuesday said that it supports a regional process convened under the aegis of the United Nations for permanent peace in Afghanistan.
A statement by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar at the 9th Ministerial Conference of Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process (HoA-IP) on Afghanistan in Dushanbe, said: “We support a regional process to be convened under the aegis of the United Nations. UN stewardship would help to take into account all relevant UN resolutions and improve the odds for a lasting outcome.”
Pakistan has been for long involved in negotiations among the US, Taliban and Afghan government, Russia, China and Iran over Afghanistan. Though Jaishankar did not explicitly mention Pakistan or any other member of Asia, he was referring to the broad dialogue among all the key players in the region.
The term ‘Heart of Asia’ should not be taken lightly, he said, adding that for what happens in Afghanistan will surely affect the larger region. “A stable, sovereign and peaceful Afghanistan is truly the basis for peace and progress in our region. Ensuring that it is free of terrorism, violent extremism and drug and criminal syndicates is, therefore, a collective imperative.”
However, the situation in Afghanistan continues to be grave. Violence and bloodshed are daily realities and the conflict itself has shown little sign of abatement. The last few months have witnessed an escalation in targeted killings of civil society. 2020 marked a 45 percent increase in civilian casualties in Afghanistan over 2019. The involvement of foreign fighters in Afghanistan has continued. Jaishankar said that ‘Heart of Asia’ members and supporting countries should, therefore, make it a priority to press for an immediate reduction in violence leading to a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire.
“For a durable peace in Afghanistan, what we need is a genuine ‘double peace’, that is, peace within Afghanistan and peace around Afghanistan. It requires harmonising the interests of all, both within and around that country. India has been supportive of all the efforts being made to accelerate the dialogue between the Afghan government and the Taliban, including intra-Afghan negotiations,” he said.
If the peace process is to be successful, he said, then it is necessary to ensure that the negotiating parties continue to engage in good faith, with a serious commitment towards reaching a political solution. India welcomes any move towards a genuine political settlement and a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire in Afghanistan.
India, he said, remains committed to steadfastly supporting Afghanistan during this transition. Our development partnership of USD 3 billion, including more than 550 Community Development Projects covering all 34 provinces, is aimed at making Afghanistan a self-sustaining nation. The promise of more drinking water to Kabul is the latest in that list.
As the lead country on Trade, Commerce and Investment CBMs under the HoA-IP, India will continue to work on improving Afghanistan’s connectivity with the outside world. Projects like the Chahhabar Port in Iran and the dedicated Air Freight Corridor between the cities of India and Afghanistan are part of our efforts, he said.