Afghan foreign minister likely to visit India this month

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New Delhi, Mar 11 (PTI) Afghan Foreign Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar is likely to visit India on March 22 amid renewed efforts to speed up the fragile peace process in Afghanistan, people familiar with the development said on Thursday.

They said Atmar will hold extensive talks with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar with a focus on the Afghan peace process and ways to further bolster bilateral cooperation in a range of areas.

There have been renewed international efforts to speed up the peace process in Afghanistan that was spurred by increasing violence by the Taliban in the last few months though the outfit is engaged in negotiations with the Afghan government.

The visit to India by the Afghan foreign minister will be crucial, said a source.

Afghanistan's top peace negotiator Abdullah Abdullah had visited India in October and discussed with India's top leadership about the peace initiative to bring back peace and stability in the war-ravaged country.

Last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, speaking at a virtual meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, called for an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire to end violence in Afghanistan.

The Taliban and the Afghan government are holding direct talks in Doha to end 19 years of war that has killed tens of thousands of people and ravaged various parts of the country.

India has been a major stakeholder in the peace and stability of Afghanistan. It has already invested USD two billion in aid and reconstruction activities in the country. India has been supporting a national peace and reconciliation process which is Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled.

India has been keenly following the evolving political situation after the then Donald Trump administration signed a peace deal with the Taliban in February. The deal provided for the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, effectively drawing curtains to Washington's 18-year war in the country.

However, the Joe Biden administration has maintained that all options remain on the table for the 2,500 American troops in that country.

India has also been maintaining that care should be taken to ensure that any such process does not lead to any 'ungoverned spaces' where terrorists and their proxies can relocate.

India has been calling upon all sections of the political spectrum in Afghanistan to work together to meet the aspirations of all people in that country including those from the minority community for a prosperous and safe future.

India has already invested over USD two billion in aid and reconstruction activities in the country. In November, India announced a new package of over 100 high impact community projects worth USD 80 million for Afghanistan. PTI MPB NSD NSD