India always wanted Afghan-led peace process: MEA

New Delhi: After facing immense criticism from various political quarters for participating in the ‘Moscow format meeting’ on Afghanistan, which will also be attended by a Taliban delegation, official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, Raveesh Kumar, on Friday clarified that “India always wanted an Afghan-led peace process.”

Reiterating India’s stand on the issue, Kumar told the reporters here, “India will be participating in the meeting at non-official level” and added that “New Delhi’s Afghan policy has been consistent”.

Kumar also slammed the opposition parties for their remarks in this regard and questioned, “Don’t know how are people concluding that India will hold talks with the Taliban. It is a meeting on Afghanistan in Moscow.”

The statement from Kumar came a few hours after former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah slammed the Central government for participating in the meeting by saying, “If “non-official” participation in a dialogue that includes the Taliban is acceptable to the Modi government, why not a “non-official” dialogue with non-mainstream stakeholders in J&K? Why not a “non-official” dialogue centered around J&K’s eroded autonomy & its restoration?.”

Joining Omar’s contention, Farooq Abdullah, chairman of Jammu and Kashmir National Conference also stated that there is a dire need to hold a dialogue with the non-mainstream stakeholders in order to prevent further crumbling of democracy in the state.

“Before further erosion of democracy in the state, one should immediately start a dialogue and it should be meaningful. It has to have the compulsion in the center of restoring our autonomy. Unless they restore autonomy, to expect any forward movement from people is impossible,” Farooq said.

On Thursday, MEA headed by Union Minister Sushma Swaraj had confirmed India’s informal participation in the talks in Moscow and said, “Our participation at the meeting will be at the non-official level.”

“India supports all efforts at peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan that will preserve unity and plurality, and bring security, stability, and prosperity to the country. India’s consistent policy has been that such efforts should be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, and Afghan-controlled and with the participation of the Government of Afghanistan,” the MEA added.