Fair, broad-based outcome needed for durable peace in Afghanistan: Jaishankar

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New Delhi, Apr 16 (PTI) The future of Afghanistan should not be a return to its past and a fair and a broad-based outcome should be found out for durable peace there, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Friday, days after the US announced withdrawal of all its troops from the country by September 11.

Jaishankar described the US decision as a 'big step' and said it is going to take Afghanistan in a certain direction and that it would be important for the stakeholders to work together to ensure that the path the country takes is the right one.

In an interactive session with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and Afghan National Security Advisor (NSA) Hamdullah Mohib at the Raisina Dialogue, Jaishankar also said Afghanistan needs a 'double peace', that is peace within and peace around it.

Separately, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said any political settlement in the war-ravaged country must be inclusive and should preserve the socio-economic and political gains of the past 19 years.

'India remains engaged with the Afghan stakeholders and also our regional and international partners regarding next steps,' MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said, reacting to the announcement by the US.

Jaishankar said the real issue today is that what would be ' the fair outcome, the most broad-based outcome' which will create durable peace in the country, noting that the gains of the last two decades must be preserved.

'It cannot be the wishes of the most forceful set of people in that society. That is not how durable understandings are reached and maintained. And it has to have support of all the neighbours,' he said.

Insisting that the future of Afghanistan should not be a return to its past, Jaishankar asserted that India will do whatever is in its power and influence in relationship with its other neighbours to protect the best interests of the Afghan people.

'We have always believed that this should be an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled process,' the external affairs minister said, adding 'Afghanistan needs a double peace. It needs peace within and it needs peace around.' In a significant announcement, President Biden on Wednesday said American troops will leave Afghanistan by September 11 that would coincide with the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks on the US in 2001.

The US has lost more than 2,000 personnel since 2001 in the war that was triggered by the terror attacks carried out by the al-Qaeda.

'In the last 20 years, we have demonstrated through our actions and projects on the ground what our real feelings are for Afghanistan,' Jaishankar said.

He said everybody agrees that peace is in the collective interests.

'The issue is how do you get everybody to work together on what they say, they believe in without going in a different way because of calculations and short term interests and pressures from other parties that they may feel,' he said.

Describing Afghanistan as 'common enterprise' of all its people, the external affairs minister said the the space given to all faiths, ethnicities, minorities, women, and children in the country showed the progress it made since 2001.

'In a way what all of us see in President Biden's announcement is a big step which is going to take Afghanistan in a certain direction and it is important we all work together to ensure that the direction is right and the outcomes are good for Afghanistan,' he said.

He further said:' What all of us would like to see today is what is in the collective interests of Afghanistan and I do not think that is rocket science.' 'The lack of violence is in collective interests, development is in collective interests, deciding the will of the people through democratic means is in collective interests,' he added.

Zarif said the announcement and commitment of the US to finally withdraw its troops from Afghanistan in a responsible way is a positive move and it has to be taken in the light of the realities of the region that the presence of foreign forces has never contributed to its peace and stability.

'The Taliban should start negotiating now with the government of Afghanistan, the people of Afghanistan and various other groups in the country. There should be a broad-based conversation right now,' the Iranian foreign minister said.

He said waiting for an eventuality will result in a vacuum and the Taliban wanting to fill that vacuum will be a disaster.

'That will be the recipe for a new war in Afghanistan and we in the region cannot tolerate it,' Zarif said.

There have been renewed global efforts to bring lasting peace to Afghanistan. Russia recently organised a conference in Moscow, where all major stakeholders were invited to brainstorm over ways to move forward in the peace process.

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 that is Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled.

Last month, Afghan Foreign Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar visited India during which Jaishankar conveyed to him India's long-term commitment towards a peaceful, sovereign and stable Afghanistan. PTI MPB ZMN