The Taliban and the Afghan government are holding direct talks to end 19 years of war

New Delhi: India on Thursday said it is in touch with various stakeholders in Afghanistan in pursuance of its long-term commitment towards peace, development and reconstruction of that country.

At a media briefing, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said India has been engaging with Afghans across ethnicities and that it supports all peace initiatives in Afghanistan.

“Our relations with Afghanistan are historical and multi-faceted. We have been engaging with Afghans across ethnicities. As a friendly neighbour, we are concerned about peace and security in Afghanistan and the region,” Bagchi said.

The spokesperson was asked about a media report that said India reached out to certain Taliban factions that are perceived to be outside the sphere of influence of Pakistan and Iran.

Bagchi said he would not comment on the report.

“We support all peace initiatives and have been engaged with several stakeholders including regional countries,” he said.

There has been renewed push to expedite the Afghan peace process in the face of the drawdown of troops from Afghanistan by the US by September 11.

“In the recent past, we have had visits by multiple Afghan leaders to India and we have also had official visits to Kabul. We are in touch with various stakeholders, as I said, in pursuance of our long-term commitment towards development and reconstruction of Afghanistan,” Bagchi said.

The Taliban and the Afghan government are holding direct talks to end 19 years of war that has killed tens of thousands of people and ravaged various parts of the country. On September 12 last year, an Indian delegation attended the inaugural ceremony of the negotiations in Doha while External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar joined it through a video conference.

“As you are aware, the external affairs minister participated in the inaugural ceremony of the intra-Afghan talks held in Doha last year. A senior official delegation attended the talks in Doha,” Bagchi said.

India has been a major stakeholder in the peace and stability of Afghanistan. It has already invested close to USD three billion in aid and reconstruction activities in the country.

India has been supporting a national peace and reconciliation process which is Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled.

In March, Afghan Foreign Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar visited India during which Jaishankar conveyed to him India’s long-term commitment towards a peaceful, sovereign and stable Afghanistan.