By: The Kabul Times
KABUL: India welcomed President Ghani’s decision to form a team for intra-Afghan negotiation on Wednesday, hoping that the “positive step” would help in freeing the war-ravaged country from the scourge of “externally sponsored” terrorism. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement,”India welcomes the announcement by the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan about formation of a team for intra- Afghan negotiations.” Earlier, mid March, president Ghani had pardoned thousands of Taliban prisoners in a key preliminary step to intra-Afghan talks between a government delegation and the extremist group. But the Taliban had conducted 95 attacks against Afghan forces in 10 provinces on March 14. President Ghani’s move came weeks after the US inked a historic peace deal with the Taliban, effectively drawing curtains to Washington’s 18-year war in Afghanistan since 2001. India also appealed to people across all political spectrum in Afghanistan to work together to meet the aspirations of citizens of Afghanistan, including the minority community for a prosperous and safe future. “India has consistently supported an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled process for enduring peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan,” the MEA said. MEA further added, “In this context, we view the formation of the team as a positive step which would lead to a peaceful and stable future for Afghanistan free from the scourge of externally sponsored terrorism.” All across globe, concerns have been raised over Pakistan’s support to Taliban and other terror groups operating in Afghanistan. Days before inking of the peace deal between the US and Taliban, India conveyed to the Trump administration that pressure on Pakistan to crack down on terror networks operating from its soil must be kept up though Islamabad’s cooperation for peace in Afghanistan is crucial. The deal, inked on February 29, allows for the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan. The US has lost over 2,400 soldiers in Afghanistan since late 2001. India has been a key stakeholder in the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan. The US military has begun withdrawing soldiers from Afghanistan, a Pentagon official said on March 10, as reported by news agency AFP. The US has committed to reducing its troop level from more than 12,000 at the moment to 8,600 within 135 days of the agreement, said Colonel Sonny Leggett, spokesman for US forces in Afghanistan. India has been supporting a national peace and reconciliation process which is Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan controlled. 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. More than 10,000 civilians were killed or wounded in Afghanistan’s war last year, according to the United Nations. India did not recognise Afghanistan diplomatically when Taliban was ruling the country from 1996 to 2002.