Indian, Afghan clerics denounce violence in Afghanistan; call for steps to bring peace

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New Delhi, Dec 31 (PTI) A group of Indian and Afghan clerics have described the current 'war' in Afghanistan as 'illegitimate' and said the 'targeting' of civilian institutions and public infrastructures by the Taliban goes against the basic teachings of Islam.

The religious scholars issued a declaration following a meeting at the India Islamic Cultural Centre in Delhi on Wednesday, according to a statement issued by the Afghan foreign ministry on Thursday.

In the declaration, the scholars said Islam is a religion of peace and called upon the warring parties in Afghanistan to immediately declare a nationwide ceasefire.

'The war and violence perpetrated against the government and people of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan by the Taliban, and targeting of civilian institutions and public infrastructures by the Taliban goes against the basic teachings of Islam and therefore, it is illegitimate and has no religious justification,' it said.

'We call on both the Taliban and the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to rise to the occasion and seize this rare opportunity to accelerate their negotiations for establishing a just and lasting peace in Afghanistan,' the declaration said.

The scholars said they support the steps taken by the government of Afghanistan to pave the way for achieving enduring peace in the country.

'In the past 19 years Afghanistan has made remarkable progress in various spheres, we urge that these hard-gained achievements be preserved and protected,' the declaration issued after the 'First Gathering of the Islamic Scholars of Afghanistan and India' said.

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 keenly following the evolving political situation after the US 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 with Taliban in the 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. PTI MPB ANB ANB