India and Taliban will come face-to-face at the “Moscow Format” meeting hosted by Russia on Wednesday, with discussions expected to focus on the security situation and formation of an inclusive government in Afghanistan.
The participants - India, USA, Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, Iran and Central Asian states – will also touch upon the issues of consolidating efforts of the international community to prevent a humanitarian crisis in the Taliban-ruled country.
This will be the first edition of the Moscow Format on Afghanistan since the Taliban stormed to power. While India’s first meeting with the Taliban was in Doha on August 31, the Moscow Format will enable the first formal contact between New Delhi and the Taliban after they formed a government in Kabul in the first week of September.
The Indian delegation to the third Moscow Format meeting will be led by JP Singh, the joint secretary who heads the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran desk in the external affairs ministry. The possibility of informal contacts between the Indian team and the Taliban on the margins of the meeting in Moscow has not been ruled out.
The Moscow Format was established in 2017 as a six-party mechanism involving Russia, Afghanistan, India, Iran, China and Pakistan. It was later expanded with the inclusion of more countries and meetings were held in Moscow in 2017 and 2018.
Zamir Kabulov, Russia’s special presidential envoy for Afghanistan, said on October 15 that Moscow intended to have a frank discussion with the Taliban during the Moscow Format meeting, but no “breakthrough decisions” were expected.
The Russian side intends to “hold a sincere conversation behind closed doors with the representatives of the new Afghan leadership” and “convey our objections to the Afghan delegation”, Kabulov was quoted as saying by state-run TASS news agency. “We do not expect any breakthrough decisions, this is a long evolutionary process, we are proceeding from this understanding,” he said.
Kabulov further said the discussions will focus on human rights issues and the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan. He added that fighting drug trafficking and terror threats related to Afghanistan remain a priority for Russia and other countries.
India, meanwhile, has cautioned the world community against rushing to recognise the Taliban setup in Kabul, pointing out the change of power in Kabul was not inclusive and was done without negotiations.