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Before drawdown, put in place elected political structure in Afghanistan, India tells US

By Anuj Cariappa

New Delhi, Mar 17: India has conveyed to the US that it should not withdraw its troops from Afghanistan without putting in place an elected "political structure" to govern the country, official sources have said.

Foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale met US Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad recently and apprised India's views about drawdown of US troops from Afghanistan, they said.

Before drawdown, put in place elected political structure in Afghanistan, India tells US

The US has intensified its efforts in the past few months, including holding talks with the Taliban, to end the more than 17-year conflict in Afghanistan.

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In the meeting with Khalilzad, Gokhale conveyed that India's preference is for having an elected government in Kabul and not an interim arrangement when the US withdraws its forces from the war-ravaged country, the sources said.

Khalilzad informed Gokhale about the issues under discussions with the Taliban and that Washington was insisting on an assurance that territory of Afghanistan will not be used for any terror activities.

The foreign secretary told the US envoy that it should include terrorist groups that acted against India to which Khalilzad gave an affirmative response.

Major powers such as the US, Russia and Iran have been reaching out to the Taliban as part of efforts to push the stalled Afghan peace process.

India has been a key stakeholder in the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan.

In a significant move, India had sent two former diplomats in "non official" capacity to a conference on the Afghan peace process in Moscow in November last year which was attended by a high-level Taliban delegation.

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The conference organised by Russia was attended by representatives of Afghanistan as well as from several other countries, including the US, Pakistan and China.

India has been maintaining a policy of not engaging with the Taliban and pressing for an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace initiative to bring peace and stability in the war-ravaged country.

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