The United States signed a deal with Taliban insurgents on Saturday that could pave the way toward a full withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan and represent a step toward ending the 18-year-war in the nation.
The signing of the deal attracted reactions from around the world including India and Pakistan.
Diplomats from Afghanistan, the US, India, Pakistan and other UN member states gathered on Saturday along with Taliban representatives at the Sheraton Hotel in Doha, a five-star resort overlooking the Gulf where the peace deal was signed.
The US signed the landmark agreement with the Taliban in Doha in presence of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a host of foreign diplomats including those from India.
INDIA REACTS CAUTIOUSLY TO US-TALIBAN PEACE DEAL
In a guarded reaction to the peace deal between the US and the Taliban, India on Saturday said its consistent policy has been to support all opportunities that can bring peace, security and stability in Afghanistan and ensure end of terrorism.
External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said India will continue to extend all support to the Afghanistan as a contiguous neighbour, in a clear reference that the Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir belongs to India.
India’s Ambassador to Qatar P Kumaran was among a host of diplomats present at the ceremony where the deal was inked.
“India’s consistent policy is to support all opportunities that can bring peace, security and stability in Afghanistan; end violence; cut ties with international terrorism; and lead to a lasting political settlement through an Afghan led, Afghan owned and Afghan controlled process,” MEA spokesperson Raveesh kumar said.
He was responding to signing of the US-Taliban deal in Doha and issuance of a joint declaration between the Afghan and US governments in Kabul. India has been a key stakeholder in Afghanistan as it has already spent around USD 2 billion in reconstruction of war-ravaged country.
“As a contiguous neighbour, India will continue to extend all support to the Government and people of Afghanistan in realising their aspirations for a peaceful, democratic and prosperous future where the interest of all sections of Afghan society are protected,” Kumar said.
On the peace deal, the MEA spokesperson said India has noted that entire political spectrum in Afghanistan has welcomed it.
“We note that the entire political spectrum in Afghanistan, including the government, the democratic polity and civil society, has welcomed the opportunity and hope for peace and stability generated by these agreements,” Kumar said.
In his meetings with the Afghan leadership, the foreign secretary reiterated India’s commitment to enhance political, economic and development partnership between the two neighbours, the MEA said in a statement.
It said Shringla reiterated India’s consistent support for an independent, sovereign, democratic, pluralistic and inclusive Afghanistan in which interests of all sections of Afghan society are preserved.
The foreign secretary also conveyed India’s support for enduring and inclusive peace and reconciliation which is Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled.
THE WORLD ON PEACE DEAL
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, in a statement said, “Pakistan had fulfilled its part of the responsibility in terms of facilitating this peace agreement. Pakistan will continue to support a peaceful, stable, united, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan, at peace with itself and with its neighbours.”
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato), in a statement said, “Recent progress on peace has ushered in a reduction of violence and paved the way for intra-Afghan negotiations between a fully inclusive Afghan national team and the Taliban to reach a comprehensive peace agreement. We call on the Taliban to embrace this opportunity for peace.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the agreement signed between the United States and Taliban on Saturday an important development in achieving a lasting political settlement in Afghanistan, while stressing the importance of sustaining a nationwide reduction in violence.
White House, in a statement said, “Our nation is taking a responsible approach to ending this crisis and will be watching the Taliban closely to ensure compliance. President Trump promised to bring our troops home from overseas and is following through on that promise.”
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, at a press conference in Kabul said, “All the materials of the … deal are based on condition, it depend on the Taliban’s commitment to the peace deal. “There are several points in the deal needs consideration which can be discussed in the talks with the Taliban. Our negotiating team, under the framework of the Afghan government, will be inclusive.”
Esmat, 24, Helmand province
“I lost a leg in the clashes between the Taliban and security forces. My father was a tribal elder and six years ago when he was travelling with my 10-year-old brother the Taliban attacked them. Both of them were killed. I listen to the radio every day to find out how far the peace talks have progressed. I support this process and pray daily that the war will end and that peace comes to my country. I really hate the war.”
Zarmina, 27, Tehsang, Ghazni province
“It was midnight when clashes between the Taliban and security forces began. I didn’t know if it was a bomb or a rocket that hit my house. My husband and three daughters were killed. I saw my husband’s head blown off. Two of my daughters are alive but all of us suffer from mental problems now. Yes, I am optimistic about peace talks. … I do not know if peace will be achieved, but it is enough to just end the war.”
Wahida, 19, of Nadir Khil village, Nangarhar province, who lost 12 members of her family in an air strike
“I lost two brothers, eight sisters, and my parents. I was also seriously injured and not able to walk anymore. Can I forget that incident? When your family dies in front of your eyes and you hear their painful noises and are not able to help them, can you imagine how it feels? If peace comes and the agreement between the Taliban and the Afghan government is done, it will not change my life and bring me back my loved ones. But yes this will change other people’s lives. They will not lose their loved ones and this matters a lot.”
Hujat Ezat, 22, of Kabul city, who lost his brother in an ambulance bomb in Kabul in 2018
“My brother Ahmad was 24 years old and it was his last year of university. He was going to the university when the explosion took place. We found only one of his feet. We were waiting for spring to celebrate his wedding, but instead of the wedding we held his funeral … Our pain will not be cured by peace, but if peace comes at least the rest of the people will not lose their loved ones.”
US, TALIBAN SIGN DEAL AIMED AT ENDING WAR IN AFGHANISTAN
The United States signed a peace agreement with Taliban militants on Saturday aimed at bringing an end to 18 years of bloodshed in Afghanistan that began after 9/11 and allowing US troops to return home from America’s longest war.
This historic deal, signed by chief negotiators from the two sides and witnessed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the Qatari capital of Doha, could see the withdrawal of all American and allied forces in the next 14 months and allow President Donald Trump to fulfill a key campaign pledge to extract the US from “endless wars”.
It sets the stage for intra-Afghan peace talks to begin by March 10 during which a permanent ceasefire will be negotiated and the Taliban agree to meet with all factions.
Under the agreement, the US would draw its forces down to 8,600 from 13,000 in the next three-four months, with the remaining US forces withdrawing in 14 months.
The complete pullout would depend on the Taliban meeting their commitments to prevent terrorism, including specific obligations to renounce Al-Qaeda and prevent that group and others from using Afghan soil to plot attacks on the US or its allies.
The deal does not, however, tie the US withdrawal to any specific outcome from the all Afghan talks, according to US officials.
(With inputs from Geeta Mohan/India Today, PTI, Reuters and AP)