Up to Afghan government whom to engage in talks: India

New Delhi, Feb 16 (IANS) India, while attending six-party consultations on Afghanistan hosted by Russia, said that it is up to the Afghan government to decide whom to engage in direct talks to bring about peace and security in the country, a senior official said on Thursday.

The consultations, held in Moscow on Wednesday, were also attended by China, Iran and Pakistan.

“The consultations brought together regional countries, which have important stake in peace and security in Afghanistan, to exchange views on promoting security as well as peace and reconciliation in that country,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said at his weekly media briefing here.

“India expressed the hope that the initiative for these consultations, which mark a new beginning, would help promote regional cooperation for stabilising the situation in Afghanistan, protecting its unity and integrity, and pursuing peace and reconciliation,” he said.

“We stressed that it is essential to end all forms of terrorism and extremism that beset Afghanistan and our region, and to ensure denial of territory or any other support, safe havens or sanctuaries to any terrorist group or individual in countries of our region.”

According to the spokesperson, India stressed that an end to violence and terrorism is fundamental to promoting security and creating environment necessary for peace and reconciliation which is Afghan-led and owned.

“We also underlined that it is up to the government of Afghanistan to decide whom to engage in direct talks. These efforts can only be facilitated by friends and wellwishers of Afghanistan,” Swarup said.

“We pointed out that regional efforts to promote security, peace and development in Afghanistan can benefit from wider international collaboration and cooperation, wherever Afghanistan benefits from them,” he added.