India on Tuesday urged the international community to work towards removing all artificial transit barriers imposed on Afghanistan and to ensure that all such rights are guaranteed to the country under bilateral and multilateral agreements.

In a speech at the UN Security Council on the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar also said that India supported a leading role for the UN “since that would help improve the odds for a lasting and durable outcome."

The comments come as the spiral of violence in Afghanistan – as the US and other international troops prepare to leave the country after a two decade long stay -- has been rising. The United Nations' envoy for Afghanistan Deborah Lyons told Tuesday’s UNSC session on UNAMA that the Taliban had taken more than 50 of 370 districts and was positioned to take control of provincial capitals. Fierce fighting between the Taliban and Afghan government forces has taken place on the outskirts of three provincial capitals in the northern provinces of Faryab, Balkh and Kunduz provinces in recent days, a Reuters news report quoting unidentified officials said on Tuesday.

In his speech Jaishankar urged the UNSC to press for “a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire to ensure immediate reduction in violence and protection of civilian lives."

“A durable peace in Afghanistan requires a genuine ‘double peace.’ That is, peace within Afghanistan and peace around Afghanistan. It requires harmonizing the interests of all, both within and around that country," Jaishankar said – a reference to countries in the region competing with each other to shore up their bargaining abilities during negotiations on Afghanistan’s future.

The minister also said that India was supportive of “all the efforts being made to accelerate the dialogue between the Afghan government and the Taliban, including the intra-Afghan negotiations. If the peace process is to be successful, then it is necessary to ensure that the negotiating parties continue to engage in good faith, eschew the path to find a military solution, and fully commit towards reaching a political solution."

“A tangible demonstration of this commitment is required," he said adding that India welcomed “any move towards a genuine political settlement and a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire in Afghanistan."

The minister reiterated New Delhi’s position that the peace process should be an “inclusive, Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled peace process." The gains made in women’s rights and education besides other areas must be protected and not reversed, he stressed.

“For enduring peace in Afghanistan, terrorist safe havens and sanctuaries must be dismantled immediately and terrorist supply chains disrupted," Jaishankar said – a reference to India’s contention that Pakistan supports and controls anti-Kabul rebel groups. “There needs to be zero tolerance for terrorism in all its forms and manifestations including its cross-border one," he said. “It is equally important to ensure that the territory of Afghanistan is not used by terrorist groups to threaten or attack any other country," the minister said in a reference to India’s concerns that Pakistan nurtured anti-India troops could find shelter in Afghanistan if a Taliban led government takes over Kabul, as it had dome in the past. “Those providing material and financial support to terrorist entities must be held accountable," the minister said. The remarks come amid news reports that India has been engaging the Taliban in what is seen as a major change in Indian policy.

Stressing the need for the international community to keep backing Afghanistan and its various institutions, Jaishankar said that for “Afghanistan’s economic development, it is important to have unhindered access to the high seas."

“The international community should work towards the removal of artificial transit barriers imposed on Afghanistan and ensure full transit rights guaranteed to Afghanistan under bilateral and multilateral transit agreements without any hindrance," he said. India has been developing the Chabahar port in neighbouring Iran in a bid to ensure that Pakistan does not have the power to veto trade links between India and Afghanistan. New Delhi and Kabul have also started air freight corridors linking different cities of the two countries to boost trade that would in turn make the country economically viable.

On its part, India would “continue to provide all support to the Government and people of Afghanistan in realizing their aspirations for a peaceful, democratic and prosperous future, free of terror, so as to protect and promote the rights and interests of all sections of Afghan society," the minister added.