India on Thursday said it will participate at a “non-official level” in multilateral peace talks hosted by Russia, which will also be attended by a delegation of the Taliban, The Indian Express reported.
“We are aware that the Russian Federation is hosting a meeting in Moscow on 9 November on Afghanistan,” said Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar. “Our participation at the meeting will be at the non-official level.”
The talks, known as “Moscow format”, will be attended by a “high-level” delegation of the Taliban and a delegation of the Afghan High Peace Council, which is a government-appointed body overseeing efforts to initiate talks with Taliban, reported The Hindu.
The United States said it will send a representative from the Moscow embassy for the talks, while Pakistan is expected to send a representative too. Russia has invited at least 12 countries for the talks, including China and Iran.
Unidentified officials said India will send Amar Singh, former ambassador to Afghanistan, and TCA Raghavan, former High Commissioner to Pakistan.
“India supports all efforts at peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan that will preserve unity and plurality, and bring security, stability and prosperity to the country,” Kumar said, according to the Hindustan Times. “India’s consistent policy has been that such efforts should be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, and Afghan-controlled and with participation of the government of Afghanistan.”
The Russian government welcomed India’s decision to participate in the talks. “We highly regard Indian support in the peace process in Afghanistan and welcome Indian readiness and that of other partner countries in the Moscow format,” the Russian Embassy said in a statement on Thursday.
The first round of the Moscow format was held in April last year. Joint Secretary in charge of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran Deepak Mittal had represented India at the meeting, according to The Indian Express. The second round, which was to be held on September 4, was postponed after the Afghan government cancelled its participation. India too had withdrawn from the talks, saying it would be untenable for an Indian representative to share the table with a Taliban delegation when Afghanistan’s government is not participating.