New Delhi, Oct 8 (PTI) With the peace dialogue, Afghanistan is looking at the light at the end of the 'long tunnel of war' after over four decades, top Afghan peace negotiator Abdullah Abdullah said on Thursday, asserting that there can be no military solution to the conflict in his country.
Abdullah, Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR) of Afghanistan, also thanked the Indian leadership for its support to the Afghan peace process and said India is a 'friend forever'.
Asserting that the Afghan people are committed to a peaceful solution to the conflict, he said there is 'no winner in a war' and 'no loser in a peaceful inclusive settlement'.
'In our journey in the past two decades many countries have helped us, many countries have contributed. Many countries have made sacrifices alongside own people. India has been amongst those lead countries in this regard,' he said in a lecture at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA).
Equally important is India's principled position in support of the Afghanistan peace process, he said and thanked India for its 'generosity' in providing Afghanistan support in various fields.
'For the first time after 42 years, we are looking at the light at the end of the tunnel -- the long tunnel of war in Afghanistan. It will not be easy ...because we have to be sure that it is the right light and the right tunnel,' Abdullah said.
His remarks assume significance as they come in the midst of peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Doha.
The Taliban and the Afghan government are holding direct talks to end 19 years of war that has killed tens of thousands of people and ravaged various parts of the country.
Abdullah said like India, Afghanistan is a pluralistic society and it needs a system that can embrace all sections of society, he said.
'Now we have a chance to look at the future. A future with dividends from peace and stability...We now have a chance to rebuild the new region -- deeper ties, wider connectivity. We can all work together in restoring peace and stability in Afghanistan,' he said.
Referring to the talks, he said though he would have preferred more pace to the talks, but just the two sides that had faced one another in the battlefield were talking is itself 'historic'.
'I can assure our friends here that we are fully committed to a peaceful solution. As I mentioned in the inaugural speech in Doha there is no military solution. There is no winner in a war, no loser in a peaceful inclusive settlement,' Abdullah said.
He said Afghanistan is counting on India's support, understanding and continued friendship for a better future for the two countries.
Abdullah also hailed India for its support to projects like Turkmenistan– Afghanistan–Pakistan–India (TAPI) and Chabahar.
'We were energised and re-energised that the (Indian) leadership is supportive of the efforts of the people of Afghanistan to achieve peace,' he said.
The fact that India has been supporting a national peace and reconciliation process which is Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled is welcomed by the Afghan people, Abdullah said.
Noting that patience and flexibility were the key for the reconciliation talks, he said the release of 5,500 Taliban members at the onset of talks had helped the negotiations.
Abdullah, however, said a cause of concern was the high level of violence amid talks. 'Violence has not subsided. Hopefully, we will reach some understanding on that,' he said.
Abdullah also asserted that there can be no military solution to the conflict in his country.
During the question and answer session, when asked about his recent visit to Pakistan, Abdullah said, 'When talking to the leadership of Pakistan -- both military and civilian -- I was encouraged. I had not visited for a long time and this was my first visit as the chair of the council. We will have to work together. There is a lot at stake for every country in a positive manner.' Asked whether there had been any change in the attitude of the Taliban, he said 'we hope there is a change' and added that eventually people of Afghanistan will see what has changed.
He also assured all countries that Afghanistan should not be and will not be a country which poses any threat to its neighbours or harbours any terrorist group which could be a threat to them.
On President Donald Trump's tweet on withdrawal of all American troops from Afghanistan by Christmas this year, Abdullah said he could not comment on it right away but asserted that the Afghans 'should be prepared for any eventuality'.
Earlier in the day, Abdullah met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and discussed the ongoing peace initiative to bring back stability in the war-ravaged country.
Abdullah arrived here on Tuesday on a five-day visit as part of the efforts to build a regional consensus and support for the Afghan peace process.
On Wednesday, Abdullah held extensive talks with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.
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.
On September 12, an Indian delegation attended the inaugural ceremony of the intra-Afghan negotiations in Doha while External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar joined it through video conference. PTI ASK ASK ANB ANB