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India, other nations attend Taliban-hosted regional conclave in Kabul

India and other 10 countries participated in the conference organized by Taliban on Monday evening at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kabul, to boost regional cooperation and engagement with Afghanistan. The head of India’s technical mission in Kabul participated in the meeting, as per reports.

After the Taliban took power in Afghanistan, following a withdrawal of US troops from the country, Washington and several other Western nations have slapped economic and travel sanctions on Taliban officials.

The ‘Regional Cooperation Initiative’ meeting was reportedly attended by representatives and ambassadors from 11 neighbouring and regional countries and was addressed by the Taliban regime’s acting foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi.

“Regional cooperation could be focused on exploring “region-centric” pathways based on common benefits,” Muttaqi said, adding that it should lead to calls for the removal of “unilateral sanctions” on Afghanistan. 

India has worked with the Taliban dispensation since June 2022, after it reopened its embassy in Afghanistan, mostly to distribute humanitarian aid. However, India has been working in Afghanistan without recognising the Taliban set-up, and has been pitching for the formation of a truly inclusive government in Kabul.

The meeting, the first international conference to be hosted since the return of the Taliban in August 2021, aimed to establish a “region-centric narrative” for constructive engagement between Afghanistan and its regional neighbours.

As per a tweet shared by Hafiz Zia Ahmed, Deputy Spokesman and Assistant Director of Public Relations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Muttaqi said, “Grabbing this opportunity and initiative, also through the remaining regional mechanisms such as Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries ministerial meeting or the Moscow format, we hope to succeed in reaching a regional consensus that preserves all actor’s interests”.

The conference’s key topics of discussion include fostering positive interaction between regional countries and the Taliban government, enhancing coordination in regional cooperation, developing a unified regional narrative, and collaborating to harness economic opportunities in the region.

In another post shared on X, an Indonesian representative said, “Regional cooperation is the stepping stone for international cooperation. We can not make progress without each other,” urging that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan becomes an active part of the international community.

The conference took place in the run-up to the second conference that the United Nations Secretary-General will host next month in Doha, Afghanistan. It is scheduled for 18-19 February.

Countries that attended the conference included India, China, Russia, Iran, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Indonesia and Kyrgyzstan.

There was no official word on the meeting by Indian officials.

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