India on Thursday conveyed its strong concerns about a spike in terrorist violence in Afghanistan to US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, and called for rooting out terror sanctuaries in Pakistan to ensure peace in the war-torn country, people familiar with developments said.
The concerns were conveyed to the US special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation during his meetings with external affairs minister S Jaishankar and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, the people cited above said on condition of anonymity.
“The existence of terror sanctuaries in Pakistan and their role in terrorist violence in Afghanistan figured in the meetings,” said one of the people cited above, without giving details.
The development came against the backdrop of worries in New Delhi that India’s viewpoint on the Afghan peace process is being given the short shrift by the US, which is apparently focused solely on implementing its deal with the Taliban to facilitate the withdrawal of American forces.
India has also been concerned about the increased activities of Pakistan-based terror groups such as Jaish-e-Mohammed in Afghanistan and the targeting of minorities, including the March 25 attack on a Sikh place of worship in Kabul that killed nearly 30 people, including an Indian citizen. Indian intelligence agencies believe the Islamic State, which claimed the attack, targeted the Sikhs after being unable to go ahead with plans to strike the Indian embassy.
“India is deeply concerned at the upsurge in violence and supports call for immediate ceasefire and [the] need to assist the people of Afghanistan in dealing with [the] coronavirus pandemic,” the external affairs ministry said in a statement on Khalilzad’s meetings.
The Indian side “emphasised that putting an end to terrorist safe havens and sanctuaries is necessary for enduring and sustainable peace and stability in Afghanistan”, the statement added, without naming Pakistan.
Both Jaishankar and Doval, the statement said, “reiterated India’s continued support for strengthening peace, security, unity, democratic and inclusive polity and protection of rights of all sections of the Afghan society, including Afghan Hindus and Sikhs”.
Khalilzad, the first high-level foreign dignitary to travel to New Delhi since Covid-19-related travel restrictions came into effect, visited India as part of a three-nation tour that will also take him to Qatar and Pakistan.
He provided an update on the US peace and reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan. The US side “recognised India’s constructive contribution in economic development, reconstruction and humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan” and “laid importance to India’s crucial and continuing role in sustainable peace, security and stability in Afghanistan”, the external affairs ministry’s statement said.
The Indian side also said it will continue extending humanitarian food and medical supplies to Afghanistan to deal with the pandemic. India recently shipped another 10,000 tonnes of 75,000 tonnes of wheat gifted to Afghanistan from Kandla port to Chabahar port in Iran. The wheat will then be transported by road to Afghanistan. Another 5,000 tonnes of wheat was shipped via Chabahar last month.
Khalilzad was accompanied for his meetings by List Curtis, senior director in the National Security Council, and US ambassador Kenneth Juster. In Doha,
Khalilzad met Taliban representatives to press for the full implementation of the US-Taliban agreement. In Islamabad, he will meet Pakistani officials to discuss the Afghan peace process.
“At each stop, he will urge support for an immediate reduction in violence, accelerated timeline for the start of intra-Afghan negotiations, and cooperation among all sides in addressing the Covid-19 pandemic in Afghanistan,” said a statement issued by the US state department on Wednesday.