United Nations, March 9 (IANS) India has expressed its support for the Afghanistan government's offer to the Taliban to participate in a peace process without preconditionsdespiteAthe group's "irreconcilable" nature, and called for international backing for Kabul's reconciliation efforts.
"These efforts of the Afghan Government calling on the armed groups to cease violence and join the national peace and reconciliation process that would protect the rights of all Afghans, including women, children and the minorities deserve our full support," India's Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin told the Security Council on Thursday.
He described the Afghan government's "new call for peace" as "a concrete approach to the Taliban to join the mainstream" that was made "despite the fact that armed groups have identified themselves and demonstrated to all of us that they are the irreconcilables."
At the same time he called for "a robust response" to violence from "the armed opposition".
The irreconcilable guns need to be silenced," he added.
On February 28, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani offered a wide-ranging peace package to the Taliban at an international conference in Kabul.
The peace offer included a ceasefire, inputs from the Taliban on a peace process, elections in which the Taliban could participate, and the release of prisoners.
Akbaruddin, however, warned that supporters of terrorists in Afghanistan have not been deterred "despite the international community efforts" to promote peace.
Without mentioning Pakistan by name, he said that the international community must address the challenges faced by Afghanistan and the region from cross border terrorism emanating from safe havens and sanctuaries.
"There are still those who provide sanctuaries to support the dark agendas of terrorist organiations" like the Taliban, Haqqani Network, Islamic State, al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, he said.
"If we are to preserve the achievements of Afghan women and girls, the international community must continue to extend its full support to an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process," Akbaruddin said at the meeting held on International Women's Day.
It was presided over by Sigrid Kaag, the Netherlands Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade Minister.
With the participation of Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Deputy Chairperson of the Afghanistan High Peace Council Habibi Sarabi and several women diplomats, the session had a special emphasis on women and girls in Afghanistan.
Currently only two countries have women permanent representatives on the Council -- Nikki Haley of the United States and Joanna Wronecka of Poland - and some countries designated other women diplomats to participate in the Council meeting in keeping with the spirit of the day.
Akbaruddin spoke of the efforts of the Indian government and Indian Non-Governmental Organisations to help Afghan women and girls.
Many projects financed by the $2 billion aid that India has contributed to Afghanistan have been in sectors like education, health and community development that benefit women, he said.
During the last three years about 5,000 Afghan women have received higher education scholarships to study in India, he said.
The Barefoot College in Tiloniya, Rajasthan, has trained several rural women from Afghanistan in solar electrification, he said.
Vocational training centers have been set up across Afghanistan and 150 women received training in India to be trainers and more than 3,000 women have been trained in Afghanbistan, he added.
(Arul Louis can be reached at email@example.com)