Muscat/New Delhi, Oct 16 (IANS) Senior representatives from the US, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan met in Muscat, Oman, on Monday to revive stalled peace talks with the Taliban, but the insurgent group failed to participate in the meeting being held after a year. In the backdrop of the meeting, India, a close partner in Afghanistan’s rebuilding efforts, sent National Security Advisor Ajit Doval to Kabul to meet with the leadership.
The sixth round of Quadrilateral Coordination Group’s (QCG) meeting between the US, Pakistan, China and Afghanistan was being held in Muscat to revive peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. The meeting was expected to focus on implementing commitments, especially Pakistan’s promises, regarding fighting terrorism in its tribal regions.
The Pakistan team was led by Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua.
Ahead of the meet, Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Shekib Mustaghni said in addition to discussions on commitments, the delegates would share ideas on counter-terrorism efforts.
“The meeting (QCG) is aimed to review Pakistan’s commitments on (peace) talks that had been made at previous meetings,” said Mustaghni.
The peace talks on Afghanistan were halted last year in May after an American drone killed then Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansoor in southern part of Balochistan bordering Iran.
From Afghanistan, in addition to the Deputy Foreign Minister, a representative from the High Peace Council (HPC) also attended the meeting.
A statement from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said that NSA Ajit Doval paid a visit to Afghanistan at the invitation of his Afghan counterpart Hanif Atmar.
Doval called on President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah. NSA Atmar hosted a working lunch for Doval where the Ministers of Defence, Interior, NDS, Chief of Army Staff, Independent Directorate of Local Governance and senior officials of the National Security Council were also present, the statement said.
Both sides exchanged views on various facets of the bilateral strategic partnership and regional and global issues of mutual interest.
Both sides emphasised that “bilateral and sincere regional cooperation is important for peace, security and stability in the region” and welcomed the opportunities created by the new US strategy for bringing peace and security in Afghanistan. It was agreed to further strengthen strategic dialogue and consultations for achieving the shared objectives, it said.
Doval on behalf of Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited President Ghani to visit India. The invitation was accepted.
Meanwhile, a Pakistani media outlet said that Islamabad had approached the Taliban and asked it to prepare a team to participate in the peace negotiations.
The Taliban had earlier refused to accept Islamabad’s call to join the political dialogue.
According to TOLONews, the previous five quadrilateral meetings saw a roadmap outlined for peace, but after the meetings, Pakistan was accused of not fulfilling its promises and the follow up meeting was delayed.
Afghan Senate members said they were not hopeful of any positive result emerging from the meeting.
“(The Afghan) government should make it clear when we will see the results of such meetings,” Senator Abdul Rahman Achakzai said.
The first quadrilateral meet was held between Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and US on the sidelines of the Heart of Asia Summit in 2015, and following that four other meetings were held in Kabul and Islamabad.
The talks in Oman come after Pakistan last week said that India’s “controversial role” in Afghanistan was not in the interest of regional stability and not acceptable to Pakistan.
The Muscat meeting also comes days after Pakistani authorities played an important role in securing the release of a Canadian-American couple from the Taliban-linked Haqqani network’s captivity — a development that was appreciated by the US.
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