India and the five Central Asia nations on January 13, 2019 showed their support for the inclusive peace process in Afghanistan following the first ever India-Central Asia Dialogue. These five Central Asia nations are Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.
The Dialogue was attended by the Foreign Ministers of Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan and the First Deputy Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan. The Indian side was represented by Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
Sushma Swaraj’s take on Afghanistan’s inclusive peace process
Sushma Swaraj reiterated India’s support and commitment to peace, security and stability of Afghanistan to promote inclusive Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled peace and reconciliation process.
Though New Delhi does not hold policy talks with the Taliban, it indicated its support for an inclusive peace process in Afghanistan.
India proposed to set up the India-Central Asia Development Group to take forward this development partnership.
Sushma Swaraj also highlighted the joint efforts of India, Iran and Afghanistan in the development of the Chabahar port on the southeastern coast of Iran as a viable route to connect to Afghanistan to Central Asia.
India has pledged to invest USD 500 million to develop the Chabahar port and a road link from there to Afghanistan to give access to that country, bypassing Pakistan.
The Chabahar Port is a key link in the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC), a 7,200-km-long multi-modal network, to move freight between India, Iran, Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia and Europe.
Discussions between India and the US on Afghanistan’s peace process
Earlier in the beginning of January 2019 itself, India and the US discussed the ongoing peace process in Afghanistan during a meeting between Sushma Swaraj and US President Donald Trump's Special Envoy on Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad.
Khalilzad's visit reflected India’s favourable stand on an "Afghan-owned, Afghan-led and Afghan-controlled" peace and reconciliation process.
Khalilzad is leading an inter-agency delegation to India, China, Afghanistan and Pakistan from January 8-21, 2019.
Key highlights of the India-Central Asia Dialogue
• The Ministers welcomed the participation of Afghanistan as an important land link in the regional cooperation and expressed their support and commitment to peace, security and stability of Afghanistan.
• The countries agreed to promote an inclusive Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process and reconciliation.
• The leaders pledged to assist in economic reconstruction of Afghanistan through the implementation of joint infrastructure, transit and transport, energy projects including regional cooperation and investment projects.
• The heads noted the importance of sustainable economic growth in Afghanistan by attracting Afghan women to participate in the public life of the country.
• They emphasised the importance of developing and implementing projects that provide a concerted solution to the problems and issues of economic growth of Central Asia.
• They discussed areas of cooperation in promoting mutual trade, attracting investments, innovations and technologies in key spheres of industry, energy, information technologies, pharmaceuticals and agriculture, education and training.