Moscow Format Dialogue: Russia urges Taliban to form inclusive government, Indian delegation meets Taliban on sidelines 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov highlighted during the dialogue that sustainable peace in Afghanistan remains a pressing goal and urged the Taliban to form an inclusive government in Afghanistan that reflects the interests of all ethnic forces.

Russia urges Taliban to form inclusive government
Russia urges Taliban to form inclusive government

Moscow Format Dialogue: Russia urged the Taliban to form an inclusive government in Afghanistan during the Moscow Format meeting on October 20, 2021. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov highlighted during the dialogue that sustainable peace in Afghanistan remains a pressing goal. He said, "We believe that forming an inclusive government, which fully reflects the interests of all ethnic and political forces in the country, is the key to achieving it." 

He noted that the situation on the ground has turned around and stated that it is pointless to look for someone to blame for the failure to achieve tangible results regarding national reconciliation. He pointed out that the hopes pinned on the republican camp and the former Afghanistan government led by former President Ashraf Ghani have failed.

He further highlighted that a new administration is in office now and this hard fact places great responsibility on the Taliban. "We note the efforts they are making to stabilise the military-political situation and to ensure the smooth operation of the public governance system," he said.

The Minister also stated, "On the one hand, the new balance of power in Afghanistan which took root after August 15 has no alternative in the foreseeable future. On the other hand, the lack of official recognition in the international arena, problems in the socio-economic and financial spheres and the humanitarian challenges faced by the new Kabul government indicate that the current state of affairs cannot yet be referred to as stable."

Top 5 takebacks from Russian Minister's statement

1. He stressed on ensuring sustainable peace in the region and urged the Taliban to form an inclusive government in Afghanistan that reflects the interests of all ethnic forces. While he did not officially recognise the Taliban government, his statement more or less indicated that Russia is ready to cooperate with the new Taliban government. 

2. He emphasised on a timely response to the growing threat of terrorists and drug activity, saying that numerous terrorist groups, primarily ISIS and Al-Qaeda, are trying to take advantage of this state of affairs. He called on the Taliban to prevent anyone from using Afghan territory against the interests of third countries, especially against its immediate neighbours- the Central Asian countries. 

3. Russian Minister expressed contention with the level of practical cooperation with the Taliban in Afghanistan that ensures the security of Russians living in Afghanistan and failsafe operation of the Russian embassy and other embassies in Kabul. 

4. The Russian Minister highlighted the need for providing efficient financial, economic and humanitarian aid to Afghanistan to prevent a humanitarian crisis and stopping migrant flows. He noted the deteriorating living conditions of average Afghans and noted how the humanitarian situation may worsen further due to the inability of a considerable part of the Afghan population to make a living. He urged Taliban representatives to share humanitarian situation may worsen further due to the inability of a considerable part of the Afghan population to make a living.

5. He further highlighted the need for the United Nations to play a central coordinating role in pooling international efforts on the Afghan situation. 

Moscow Format Dialogue: Joint Statement 

This was the third meeting of the Moscow Format Dialogue on Afghanistan and the first after the Taliban's takeover of Kabul. The meeting saw participation from special representatives from Russia, India China, Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan and a high-level delegation from the interim Taliban government.

Key Points to Note 

1. All sides reiterated their respect to maintaining sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Afghanistan. They all reaffirmed their commitment to work towards creating a peaceful, indivisible, independent and economically developing Afghanistan that is free of terrorism and drug-related crime and respecting basic human rights norms. 

2. It was noted that practical engagement with Afghanistan needed to take into account the new reality- that the Taliban has come to power in the country, irrespective of the official recognition of the new government by the international community.

3. All participating countries called for the formation of a truly inclusive government in Afghanistan that reflects the interests of all major ethnopolitical forces in the country. They stated that will be a fundamental prerequisite for the completion of the national reconciliation process in Afghanistan.

4. Further, all countries called on the Taliban leadership to practice moderate and sound internal and external policies and adopt friendly policies towards neighbourhood countries and achieve shared goals of sustainable peace, security, safety and long-term prosperity and respect the rights of ethnic groups, women and children. All the sides reaffirmed their willingness to continue to promote security in Afghanistan to contribute to regional stability.

5. The Taliban representatives reaffirmed their previous commitments to prevent the use of Afghan territory against its neighbouring states and others in the region and the rest of the world.

6. All the sides highlighted the need for consolidated efforts on the part of the international community to provide urgent humanitarian and economic assistance to the Afghan people to support the post-conflict reconstruction of the country.

7. The nations proposed to launch a collective initiative to convene a broad-based international donor conference under the United Nations as soon as possible.

India to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan: Taliban Spokesperson 

The Indian delegation met the Taliban representatives on the sidelines of Moscow format talks. As per Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah, India agreed to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. 

India had previously called for unhindered access in Afghanistan for humanitarian aid providers. Both PM Narendra Modi and EAM Dr. S Jaishankar have expressed India's desire to provide food, medicine and other humanitarian assistance to the Afghans. 

India is expected to provide humanitarian aid through a UN agency. Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted, "Both sides considered it necessary to take into account each other's concerns and improve diplomatic and economic relations.  The Indian side finally expressed readiness to provide a wide range of humanitarian assistance to the Afghans."

The high-level Taliban delegation was led by Abdul Salam Hanafi, Deputy Prime Minister of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. The Indian side was represented by JP Singh, joint secretary (Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran) at the Ministry of External Affairs.


India participated in the Moscow Format dialogue on Afghanistan at the joint secretary level on October 20, 2021. This was India's second formal engagement with the Taliban after the fall of Kabul and first since the Taliban set up an interim government in Afghanistan. 

India's first formal engagement with the Taliban after it seized control over Afghanistan was on August 31st when India's Ambassador to Qatar Deepak Mittal and the Taliban Political Office head Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai had met in Doha to discuss safety, security and early return of Indian nationals stranded in Afghanistan.


What is Moscow format?

Moscow format is a Russian initiative to find a regional solution to the Afghanistan crisis. The Moscow format was introduced in 2017 on the basis of a six-party mechanism for consultations between special representatives from Russia, Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, India and Iran. 

The main objective of the Moscow format talks is to facilitate the national reconciliation process in Afghanistan and secure peace in that country as soon as possible.


Russia had invited the Taliban for the Moscow Format meeting on the Afghanistan peace process in 2018 as well. India had participated in the meeting at a "non-official level" by sending senior diplomats Amar Sinha and T C A Raghavan to attend the talks.

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