India joins UN’s Doha meet on Afghanistan attended by Taliban – The Times of India

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NEW DELHI: India is among the 25 countries participating in the third UN-led conference on Afghanistan in Doha that kicked off Sunday, looking to find ways to improve the lives of the Afghan people in the Taliban ruled country. The meeting is significant as it is the first time that the Taliban are attending the talks.
However, the UN has denied that the latest round of talks in Doha are meant to pave the way for international recognition for the Taliban.The conference has also come under strong criticism from rights groups for not engaging Afghan women and civil society members.
India is being represented in the meeting by MEA joint secretary of the Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran (PAI) division J P Singh. The official, who visited Kabul in March this year, also met Taliban leaders in Doha.
India continues to tread carefully on the Taliban, as it works closely with them for Afghanistan’s humanitarian needs and its own security needs but without doing anything that might be seen as a step towards official recognition for the regime in Kabul.
The conference in Doha is also seeing participation by the EU, OIC and SCO, the Eurasian bloc which will be hosting its summit meeting this week in Astana, where one of the main focus areas again will be the situation in Afghanistan. With PM Narendra Modi skipping participation, although he may still address it virtually on July 4, foreign minister S Jaishankar will represent India at the SCO summit.
Both in Doha and Astana, government will look to further hammer its point that as a contiguous neighbor, India has legitimate economic and security interests in Afghanistan, and that the international community must focus on combating terrorism, humanitarian assistance, formation of a truly inclusive government and preserving the rights of women, girls and minorities. The focus on girls and women is important as the Taliban continue to deny them access to schools and colleges, in line with their interpretation of Islamic laws.
Securing its investments in Afghanistan is also a priority for India as it working on close to 500 projects in the country spread across all 34 provinces in areas like power, water supply, road connectivity, healthcare, education and agriculture. In all, India has invested more than $ 3 billion in Afghanistan.
Ensuring that Afghan territory is not used for sheltering terrorists or financing terrorist acts, however, tops the list of Indian priorities. This is particularly so in the case of terrorists proscribed by the UN Security Council, including those belonging to Pakistan based Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad. India will look to again make the point that any instability in Afghanistan is a threat to the whole region.

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