India and Taliban will face off in Russia in Moscow format

New Delhi: Officials of India and Taliban will face-to-face in Moscow format meeting organized by Russia on October 20. Whereas India’s first formal contact with the Taliban took place on 31 August in Doha. The Moscow format is likely to be the first formal contact between New Delhi and the Taliban government.

The talks, which will see the participation of officials from 10 countries, including China and Pakistan, are one of the most important international meetings of the Taliban since seizing power in Afghanistan.

The Taliban delegation will be led by Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Salam Hanafi, while India will be led by Joint Secretary JP Singh, who heads the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran desk in the Ministry of External Affairs.

The dialogue assumes significance as one of the objectives of the Moscow meeting is to strengthen the ‘efforts of the international community to prevent a humanitarian crisis’.

The Russian Foreign Ministry also said that the formation of an ‘inclusive government’ would be on the agenda, and the parties to the talks were expected to issue a joint statement later. Moscow has contacted the Taliban and hosted its representatives in Moscow several times in recent years.

The United States had previously pulled out of talks, citing logistical issues, but said it viewed the Russian-led forum as ‘constructive’.

“We look forward to joining that forum going forward, but we are not in a position to participate this week,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

Russia has been holding ‘Moscow format’ talks to resolve Afghan issues since 2017. Several rounds of talks have taken place in Moscow since 2017.

(with agency input)