Afghanistan Foreign Minister to visit Delhi on March 21

Afghanistan Foreign Minister to visit Delhi on March 21

It will come days after a conference in Moscow, which will include envoys from U.S., China, Pakistan, Qatar and the Afghan and Taliban leadership, but doesn’t include India 

Afghanistan Foreign Minister Hanif Atmar will travel to India on March 21 for talks on Strategic Partnership as well as the recent developments on the Intra-Afghan dialogue led by the U.S. and Russia, sources confirmed. 

The visit is significant as it will come days after a conference in Moscow, which would include envoys from the U.S., China, Pakistan, Qatar and the Afghan and Taliban leadership, but doesn’t include India as a part of the “Extended Troika” mechanism. 

A U.S.-initiated proposal for intra-Afghan dialogue, facilitated by Turkey, is expected to take place in the first two weeks of April in Istanbul, while dates are awaited for another American proposal, outlined by U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in a letter to Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani, for a United Nations-led regional dialogue that includes the U.S., Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan and India. 

An Indian delegation led by Joint Secretary for Iran-Pakistan-Afghanistan J.P. Singh in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) arrived in Kabul on Friday to prepare for Mr. Atmar’s visit and for briefings on the coming dialogues in Moscow and Istanbul. 

The Ghani government, which has thus far not spoken on the U.S. proposals for peace and a power-sharing arrangement in Kabul, is understood to have accepted the invitation from Russia for the ‘Troika-plus’ meeting on March 18. Other Afghanistan leaders like former President Hamid Karzai, who will also attend the meeting in Moscow, is expected to travel to Delhi in April for the MEA’s Raisina Dialogue conference. 

Mr. Atmar’s travel to India will continue a series of bilateral exchanges that indicate New Delhi’s support for the Ghani government even as the U.S. pushes for a proposal to replace it with an interim or transitional government in Kabul as a part of a “draft agreement” to “jumpstart Afghanistan Peace Negotiations between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban” that has been leaked to the media this week. 

Modi, Ghani virtual summit

National Security Advisor Ajit Doval travelled to Kabul for talks in January, following which Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Ghani held a virtual summit in February and witnessed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the construction of the Lalandar [Shatoot] Dam outside Kabul, part of the government’s “New Development Partnership” that has seen India invest about $3 billion since 2001, along with security assistance in the form of helicopters and training Afghanistan National Security . 

Sources said the agenda of Mr. Atmar’s visit was still being worked out, but it was likely to see an “abridged” version of the Strategic Partnership Council that last met in 2017. He was expected to hold talks with Minister S. Jaishankar and Mr. Doval on March 22 and call on Mr. Modi. In preparation for the visit, the government is “fast-tracking” the presentation of credentials by Afghanistan’s Ambassador-designate Farid Mamundzay, for which they will hold the ceremony next week. 

“As the most reliable regional partner and the largest regional contributor to Afghanistan’s development, I would like to thank the Government of India for providing much-needed defence and security assistance by helping us with military hardware and providing much-needed training opportunities to many of our cadets at the finest Indian military academies along with some of the finest Indian military officers,” Mr. Mamundzay said at a reception in Delhi on Thursday.

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