To ensure 'durable peace' in Afghanistan peace in and around the country essential: Jaishankar

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Dushanbe, Mar 30 (PTI) Voicing 'grave concern' over violence and bloodshed in Afghanistan, India said on Tuesday that there is need for a genuine 'double peace' in and around the war-torn country and asked the negotiating parties to engage in good faith, with a serious commitment towards reaching a political solution.

Addressing the 9th Heart of Asia Ministerial Conference here in Tajikistan's capital, Dushanbe, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar also said that India has been supportive of all the efforts being made to accelerate the dialogue between the Afghan government and the Taliban, including intra-Afghan negotiations.

'For a durable peace in Afghanistan, what we need is a genuine ‘double peace’, that is, peace within Afghanistan and peace around Afghanistan. It requires harmonising the interests of all, both within and around that country,' Jaishankar told the conference attended by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and others.

Jaishankar said that if the peace process is to be successful, then it is necessary to ensure that the negotiating parties continue to engage in good faith, with a serious commitment towards reaching a political solution.

Noting that what happens in Afghanistan will surely affect the larger region, he said the stakes in discussions may be high, but its consequences are no less significant.

'A stable, sovereign and peaceful Afghanistan is truly the basis for peace and progress in our region. Ensuring that it is free of terrorism, violent extremism and drug and criminal syndicates is, therefore, a collective imperative,' he said.

'Today, we are striving for a more inclusive Afghanistan that can overcome decades of conflict. But that will happen only if we stay true to principles that the Heart of Asia has long embodied. Collective success may not be easy but the alternative is only collective failure,' he said.

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.

In February 2020, the United States signed a landmark deal with the Taliban, laying out a timetable for a full troop withdrawal from Afghanistan within 14 months. However, despite the deal and ongoing intra-Afghan dialogue, the violence has increased in the country in recent month.

Jaishankar said the situation in Afghanistan continues to give cause for 'grave concern.' Violence and bloodshed are daily realities and the conflict itself has shown little sign of abatement, whatever may be the promises, he said.

'The continued involvement of foreign fighters in Afghanistan is particularly disturbing. Heart of Asia members and supporting countries should, therefore, make it a priority to press for an immediate reduction in violence leading to a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire,' he said.

Afghanistan has been accusing Pakistan of supporting growing insurgency and violence in the country by offering safe havens to terrorists.

He said India welcomed any move towards a genuine political settlement and a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire in Afghanistan. 'We appreciate the international recognition of foundational principles that will determine their contours,” he added.

'India supports a regional process to be convened under the aegis of the United Nations,' he said, adding that the UN stewardship would help to take into account all relevant UN resolutions and improve the odds for a lasting outcome.

Jaishankar said a notable gain of the last two decades in Afghanistan is the democratic framework under which elections were held through universal suffrage.

'So too are Afghanistan's sovereignty in domestic and foreign policy and protection of the rights of women, children and minorities and for all Afghan citizens to live freely and without fear. These achievements must be protected and built upon, even as Afghanistan moves forward,” he said.

India, a major stakeholder in the peace and stability of Afghanistan, has been supporting a national peace and reconciliation process which is Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled.

'India remains committed to steadfastly supporting Afghanistan during this transition. Our development partnership of USD 3 billion, including more than 550 Community Development Projects covering all 34 provinces, is aimed at making Afghanistan a self-sustaining nation. The promise of more drinking water to Kabul is the latest in that list,' Jaishankar said.

He said that as the lead country on Trade, Commerce and Investment CBMs under the HoA-IP, India will continue to work on improving Afghanistan’s connectivity with the outside world.

'Projects like the Chahhabar Port in Iran and the dedicated Air Freight Corridor between the cities of India and Afghanistan are part of our efforts,' he added.

Located in the Sistan-Balochistan province on the energy-rich Iran's southern coast, the strategic port is being developed by India, Iran and Afghanistan to boost trade ties.

Last week, Jaishankar said that India would like to clearly see a sovereign democratic and inclusive Afghanistan that takes into account the interests of its minorities.

The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process (HoA-IP) ministerial conference is part of the Istanbul Process - a regional initiative on security and cooperation for a stable and peaceful Afghanistan - that was launched on November 2, 2011 in Turkey. PTI ZH AKJ ZH ZH