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Indian’s Gokhale to visit Afghanistan with an anti-Taliban message

AT-KABUL: India’s Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale is expected to visit Afghanistan next week to discuss with the Ashraf Ghani government amid painstaking efforts to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table and intensifying conflict in Afghanistan.

India is seeking to convince the Afghan government to ramp up the fight against the Taliban and stop internal wrangling. India says the bickering within the Afghan government is diverting the attention from a crucial battle to suppress the militant Taliban.

Indian top diplomat’s visit is in the wake of a wave of disagreements within the government, recently evident in the resignation of NSA Hanif Atmar as well as his deputy, amid an intensification of Taliban violence.

Gokhale will also get an update on efforts to free seven Indian engineers who had been abducted by the Taliban in Baghlan province in May. There has been no word of them since.

Afghanistan was discussed in detail during the recent ‘2+2’ talks in New Delhi. The US side, Mike Pompeo and James Mattis, briefed the Indians on the state of play in the initial talks with the Taliban (from their Qatar office). India is not particularly enthusiastic about the talks but officials said they recognize the US wants to bring things to a political conclusion. There have been several efforts in the past to get a dialogue going, but they have repeatedly failed.

On Friday, Mattis paid a surprise visit to Afghanistan himself. In comments to journalists prior to his visit, the US defense secretary said the prospects of reconciliation were stronger.

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