If Talks With Taliban Fine, Why Not Kashmir Stakeholders: Omar Abdullah

In a departure from India’s stand on engaging the Taliban New Delhi has announced it would participate at a “non-official” level sending two former senior diplomats to attend talks on the Afghanistan peace process to be held in Russia on Thursday

Newly appointed United States peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has been trying to convince the Taliban to agree to negotiate an end to the war and there are fears the Russian meeting could derail those efforts.

Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said the participation of both Afghan leaders and the Taliban was an "important contribution" aimed at creating "favourable conditions for the start of direct talks".

The long-awaited meeting, organized by Moscow, is expected to take place in the Russian capital on Friday, and will reportedly look at ways to find peace in Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, the Taliban also confirmed it would send a delegation to the meeting.

Meanwhile, India is attending the talks for the first time but in a "non official" capacity.

Originally the meeting was scheduled for September 4 in Moscow, but Afghanistan refused to attend citing that any such discussions should be Afghan-led.

India will be participating in the Moscow conference but will not be indulging in any direct talks with the Taliban. But this time, it has managed to carefully balance Russian and USA interests, as it is sending the Afghan High Peace Council's representatives, instead of its foreign ministry representatives.

Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry, revealed on the eve of Friday's conference that delegates from 12 countries, including the United States, will attend the second "Moscow format consultations".

She emphasized the conference is exclusively aimed at facilitating a "conducive atmosphere for bilateral or multilateral dialogue formats" to promote a negotiated solution to the Afghan problem as soon as possible.

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The U.S. Embassy has sent a diplomat to observe the discussions, and envoys from China, India, Pakistan and the ex-Soviet nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan also attended the meeting.

Russian Federation is challenging the U.S.by hosting the Taliban at a Moscow peace conference in the latest source of friction between the two former Cold War foes.

The Taliban has confirmed that it will send representatives to Moscow. "However, only a group of people were invited and that reflects the intention of Taliban who are not yet willing to negotiate peace with the government".

Nevertheless, VOA quotes the Trump administration as saying the us will attend in coordination with Kabul.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told AFP that the militant group was sending five representatives.

"With participation in the meeting, the global status of the Islamic Emirate [the Taliban] will be strengthened even further Such diplomatic efforts of the Islamic Emirate showcase the active, clear and independent diplomacy and policy of the Islamic Emirate in the political field", asserted the insurgent spokesman.

"U.S. officials have held two meetings with the Qatar-based Taliban negotiators since July", VOA reports. "The latest talks occurred last month where newly appointed special envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalamay Khalilzad, led the USA team".

In both cases, the United States has had an active military presence inside the countries.

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