India will not hold talks with Taliban: MEA

"A delegation from the HPC, under the leadership of the deputy head of the council Hajji Deen Mohammad will attend the Moscow peace meeting on Afghanistan, the main agenda of the meeting will be the start of direct peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the armed Afghan Taliban".

But, this time, the Afghan government has sent four members of its High Peace Council to attend the meet.

"India's consistent policy has been that such efforts should be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, and Afghan-controlled and with participation of the Government of Afghanistan", said MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar, adding that "our participation at the meeting will be at the non-official level".

The US will hold a separate meeting with Taliban leaders under the Doha process, sent an observer to the Friday peace talks.

"Our participation at the meeting will be at the non-official level", he said.

The Moscow-format meeting on Afghanistan will be held on November 9 and representatives of the Afghan Taliban radical movement will take part in it, the Russian Foreign Ministry had said last week.

Russian Federation has reaffirmed its position that there is no alternative to a political settlement, the need for active coordinated work among the neighboring countries, and agreements with the regional partners of Afghanistan.

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When asked why India's stand had undergone a significant shift vis-à-vis the Taliban, government officials said that the decision was the outcome of "close discussions with the Afghanistan government", and it was felt necessary for India to have a "presence" there.

The meeting comes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks a host of global issues. After the Afghan government cancelled its participation, India too followed suit on the pretext that it would be untenable for New Delhi's representatives to share the table with a Taliban delegation - when Afghanistan's democratically-elected government would be staying away.

"The meeting will discuss the end of American invasion, identify problems and deliberate on regional peace", Mujahid said in a brief statement.

According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, invitations to take part in the event had been sent to Afghanistan, India, Iran, China, Pakistan, the U.S. and some other countries.

The Afghan foreign ministry has emphasised that the council does not represent the Afghan government at the meeting, however. On Thursday, the United States said it would send representatives from its embassy in Moscow to the talks; Pakistan is also expected to send a representative.

The first round of the Moscow format was held on April 14 past year, when India was represented by Mittal, along with deputy foreign ministers and senior officials from Afghanistan, China, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

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