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Taliban’s involvement in Afghan peace process inevitable: Karzai

NEW DELHI: Former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has reiterated that the involvement of Taliban leadership is important for the success and sustainability of Afghan peace process.

Speaking at the fourth edition of the Raisina Dialogue in Delhi on Thursday, Mr. Karzai said: “Taliban belongs to our country” and that their involvement is crucial for the success of the peace talks.

He expressed optimism that the US peace talks, led by Mr. Zalmay Khalilzad, the newly appointed US special envoy to Afghanistan, could do well as Khalilzad is an Afghan and he understands the issues and sensibilities better.

When asked whether he was concerned about American withdrawal from Afghanistan, former President Karzai stated that he did not believe that the US would leave Afghanistan. “They didn’t come to leave,” he added.

He said only a well-thought-out peace process would be able end conflict in country as the issues are difficult and complex.

He listed four essentials of such a process. First, it must be totally and effectively based on an intra-Afghan dialogue. Second, transparency must define the process. Third, it requires support from the neighbourhood and the region. Finally, he said, a deal between other countries about Afghanistan should not be a determinant of peace.

Former President Karzai also spoke about new actors in the region — such as China. He also welcomed Chinese efforts, noting that Beijing’s relationship with Islamabad may benefit peace processes in the region.

Karzai also strongly supported the Russian role in the peace process, saying both the countries have very closely historical and cultural links.

He also fully supported the Chabahar port project, noting it would help improve connectivity in the region.

Karzai acknowledged that most global powers were present in Afghanistan because its location was “breathtakingly strategic.” He welcomed the presence of other partners in the region, but called on them to work for Afghanistan’s interest as well.

He said Afghanistan and India enjoyed a “romantic relationship,” with close cultural ties. He added that expectations from India are very high in his country. “India is doing a lot. But people expect more and more,” he pointed out.

Today, India is capable of playing a bigger role in international affairs: Gen. (Retd.) V.K. Singh

Earlier in the day, participating in a panel discussion on ‘A New Delhi Consensus — India’s Imagination and Global Expectations,’ Gen. (Retd) V.K. Singh, Minister of State for External Affairs, said India is positive and enthusiastic about its current relations with China.

He added that India is now economically, technologically and diplomatically capable of playing a much bigger role in international affairs, pointing out that it has strengthened many partnerships in the last four and half years.

He added that India is expected to grow at more than 7 per cent over the next five years, and this would translate into economic and diplomatic strength.

The annual Raisina Dialogue is being organised by the Ministry of External Affairs and Observer Research Foundation, Delhi. More than 1800 participants, including more than 600 delegates and speakers from 92 countries, are taking part in the three-day conference which began on Monday evening.

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