Afghanistan’s top peace negotiator Abdullah Abdullah is set to arrive in India on Tuesday afternoon for a five-day visit during which he will hold talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and external affairs minister S Jaishankar.
Abdullah’s visit is part of an outreach to key countries in the region for support for the negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban at Doha in Qatar, people familiar with developments said.
He will meet Modi at the prime minister’s official residence on Thursday and Jaishankar on Friday. Abdullah will also participate in an interaction at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) on Thursday.
Abdullah is also expected to have interactions with key members of India’s security setup, including National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, though details could not immediately be ascertained. Interactions with the Afghan community in New Delhi are also on the cards.
The chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation in Afghanistan is travelling to India after a three-day visit to Pakistan last week. In Islamabad, he had met Prime Minister Imran Khan, foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and army chief Gen Qamar Bajwa.
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Abdullah told the Pakistani leadership that a message about reducing violence and showing greater flexibility in negotiations should be communicated to the Taliban leadership participating in the negotiations in Doha.
This is Abdullah’s first visit to India after the formation of a new government in Kabul following last year’s troubled election.
The people cited above said on condition of anonymity that Abdullah is expected to seek the Indian leadership’s support for the intra-Afghan negotiations. India had sent an official delegation to Doha to attend the event marking the launch of negotiations.
The event was also addressed via video conference by Jaishankar, who said any new dispensation which emerges from the intra-Afghan dialogue process must ensure that Afghanistan’s soil is never used for anti-India activities.
Senior Afghan leader Marshal Abdul Rashid Dostum visited India on September 25 and held talks on the peace process with Jaishankar, who told him New Delhi remains committed to Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled negotiations.
India, the region’s largest provider of development aid to Afghanistan, has expressed concern at a recent spike in violence by the Taliban and terror attacks on minorities such as Sikhs. It has said the intra-Afghan negotiations must ensure the interests of minorities, women and vulnerable sections of society and reduce violence across Afghanistan and its neighbourhood.
Since 2001, India has undertaken projects worth $3 billion in Afghanistan, including $1 billion pledged in 2016 under the “new development partnership” scheme for five years.