The US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad on Monday visited India as the United States delegation’s talks with the Taliban had a one-day break on the occasion of Ramadhan.
Khalilzad held talks with India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and briefed her on peace efforts in Afghanistan, the Indian Foreign Affairs Ministry’s spokesman Raveesh Kumar said in a tweet on Monday.
“Both discussed role of all regional stakeholders in bringing peace and development in Afghanistan,” Kumar said. “India will work with key partners in days ahead.”
Meanwhile, the US Embassy said in a statement that Ambassador Khalilzad visited New Delhi May 6-7 for consultations with Indian government officials and other stakeholders on the Afghan peace process.
Khalilzad met with Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale, and India's Ambassador to Afghanistan Vinay Kumar, among others.
During his meetings, Khalilzad welcomed expressions of support for the Afghan peace process, which strengthens an emerging international consensus for peace efforts. He also recognized the many important contributions India has made to Afghanistan’s development.
Ambassador Khalilzad and his counterparts discussed the many important benefits that peace would bring, including: preventing International terrorist use of Afghanistan as a platform for attacks; improved prospects for regional peace and security; and increased regional connectivity and trade.
Khalilzad and his counterparts also discussed that Afghanistan’s political future is for Afghans to decide through an inclusive and legitimate process. They also agreed that Afghan gains of the last 18 years must be preserved and built upon, the statement said.
Khalilzad will continue to consult with Indian counterparts as the peace process moves forward, the statement concluded.
This comes as sources familiar with Qatar talks said Taliban is still insisting on more discussions on foreign forces withdrawal in their negotiations with US officials in Doha.
The Qatar talks were will resume on Tuesday, according to sources.
The High Peace Council, which shoulders peace efforts under the Afghan government, in a statement on Monday called on the Afghan government and the Taliban to announce a ceasefire during Ramadhan in order to provide the ground for confidence-building measures and intra-Afghan dialogue. Efforts are underway for the creation of a commission which will tackle the issue of release of Taliban prisoners, the statement said.
“They (the US and the Taliban) once again discussed those issues which they had failed to reach a conclusion about them in the five-round of the talks,” said Wahid Muzhda, a political analyst. “The reasons that they did not reach to a settlement about them is that these issues are quite sensitive and complicated, for instance, the issue of troop withdrawal, when the debate is driven towards the troops, then some other issues come ahead which need to be answered that how long it will take to make it possible.”
“The Americans had taken their technical team and they talked with the Taliban. Similarly, when it comes to the issue of the ceasefire, it is an important issue, whether there will be a ceasefire when these forces are withdrawing or no? If there is a ceasefire, would it be with the foreigners or it will also comprise the Afghan government. These are all among the issues which are very complicated and they need to be discussed and this has also prolonged the negotiations,” added Muzhdah.
“Khalilzad was insisting that the Taliban should announce a ceasefire, but it is unacceptable for the Taliban, similar demands were made before also, but this time, they insisted a lot on a ceasefire, but the Taliban insists that first there is a need to clarify the issue of foreign forces withdrawal,” said Sayed Akbar Agha, a former Taliban member.
The Taliban in a statement on Friday, May 3, rejected the call for a ceasefire which was the main demand of the grand council of almost 3,200 Afghan delegates from around the country. The group said that “Jihad” will have more “rewards” during Ramadhan.