India Invites Pakistan NSA for Regional Conference on Afghanistan Next Month
If accepted, it would be the first visit of a high-ranking Pakistani official to India since December 2016.
The Times of India reported on Saturday that India had already contacted Russia, China, the US and other countries for the conference to be held later in the second week of November. “While there are no plans yet to invite the Taliban for the conference, an invite to Pakistan is not ruled out,” the report said.
The Hindu later reported that an invite had been sent to Yusuf from his Indian counterpart, Ajit Doval. However, Pakistan has yet to reply to the invitation. The Wire has also confirmed this.
If accepted, it would be the first visit of a high-ranking Pakistani official to India since Sartaj Aziz – PM Nawaz Sharif’s foreign policy advisor – participated in the Heart of Asia ministerial conference in Amritsar in December 2016.
Since then, relations between India and Pakistan had deteriorated and reached a nadir in 2019, when both conducted retaliatory airstrikes in each other’s territory. They continue to exchange verbal volleys at each other, with India continuing to target Pakistan at various international platforms for supporting cross-border terrorism.
India had earlier planned to hold the conference with regional players in May, but it had to be postponed due to the devastating second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
India had planned to invite the Afghan government to the previously scheduled conference.
There is, however, no such plans to invite the current ruling dispensation. Since May, the situation in Afghanistan has dramatically changed, with Pakistan having the upper hand after the Taliban got undisputed control of the country since August 15 following the sudden escape by the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his aides.
India had withdrawn all diplomatic presence and temporarily closed down its embassy in Kabul. Pakistan, just like Iran, Russia, China and some central Asian countries, continues to operate their embassies in Afghanistan.
Next week, a senior Indian official will attend the Moscow format talks in Russia on October 20, where Taliban deputy prime minister Abdul Salam Hanafi will participate.
India’s policy on post-August 15 Afghanistan has been to insist on an ‘inclusive’ government, with rights for minorities and women. The Indian ambassador in Qatar had met with the head of Taliban’s political office in Doha, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, but there have been no public contacts since then.