Chinese officials in talks with Taliban, says Abdullah

New Delhi, March 14: China has been talking with the Taliban for the past few years in order to work out a peace deal in Afghanistan and Chinese officials have held three-four rounds of talks with the militants in Beijing since the new government came to power last year, said Abdullah Abdullah, CEO of Afghanistan, here on Saturday.

Speaking at the Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF) here, Abdullah, who formed a National Unity government with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani last year, also thanked India for its support and its "strong commitment to continue the support" and added that ties with India are a "priority" for his government.


He said China's role was "initiated" by former president Hamid Karzai to "encourage Pakistan to cooperate in achieving peace in Afghanistan".

"That initiative goes back one-two years and some meetings had taken place in Beijing, and after the Unity Government came that idea was re-energized once again. There have been talks between the Chinese and Taliban, three-four rounds of talks," Abdullah said.

According to him, "The Chinese are saying they have encouraged the Taliban to talk to the Afghan government," he said, and added that talks with the militants "have to be inclusive and Afghan-led".

China has made sizable investments in Afghanistan's copper and oil sectors, including a $3 billion agreement to develop the Aynak copper mine. Beijing is also eyeing Afghan natural gas.

Regarding ties with its next door neighbour Pakistan, Abdullah said: "With Pakistan, we have serious challenges and are talking with them to deal with them".

He said when Pakistan says that terrorism is a common threat and that there is no difference between good and bad Taliban, "we welcome it; this is a shift of attitude (in Pakistan) and we welcome it".

But he added that "these messages will be tested with deeds, actions on the ground. Should these ideas materialize it is in the interest of Afghanistan, of India, Pakistan and of the region and global peace".

Abdullah also said his country will follow an independent foreign policy. He added that his country wishes to have good ties with Pakistan and other countries in the region and in order to achieve that "we are walking quite a distance".

On ties with India, Abdullah said the two countries are bound by their common objectives for Afghanistan - to stabilize Afghanistan, deal with the threats of extremism, radicalism and create opportunities for betterment of life for the Afghan people and for win-win regional regional cooperation.

"So that extremist groups will not find it a convenient place to grow and develop and do misadventures. It is aligned (the objectives) and that is what binds us together," he said.

"I should thank India for its support and its strong commitment to continue the support, and in the same way we were dealing with the multi-faceted dimensions of challenges in the past, you continue to support us... There are lots of positive changes in the country and we expect India to stay the course; and be sure nothing will shake the foundation of our good relations," said Abdullah.

He said when President Ghani visits India the different facets of the Strategic Framework agreement with India would be reactivated. Abdullah has met with Vice President Hamid Ansari.


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