Russia Looks To Ramp Up Engagement With India On Afghanistan
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Russia Looks To Ramp Up Engagement With India On Afghanistan

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Russia will look to address some of India’s concerns about the peace process in Afghanistan with foreign minister Sergey Lavrov visiting India next week, accompanied by Russian special envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov.

Lavrov will hold talks with his counterpart S Jaishankar and is expected to call on PM Narendra Modi. His visit is expected to prepare the ground for President Putin’s summit meeting with Modi here later his year.

Diplomatic sources said the visit will see another round of “sincere and forward-looking” dialogue between the 2 countries on Afghanistan. Kabulov is expected to brief Indian authorities about the progress made in the March 18 meeting hosted by Russia of the extended troika – Russia, US, China and Pakistan – which focused on making progress in the intra-Afghan process to reach a negotiated settlement and permanent and comprehensive ceasefire.

Lavrov and Kabulov will land in Delhi at a time Russia is upset about alleged efforts to “negatively affect” its ties with India by, as it said in a statement earlier, combining “small fragmented pieces of disinformation into a larger picture with one-sided and simplified vision”. Russia was said to have kept India out of the March 18 “regular meeting” of the extended troika even though the US had included India in a fresh peace initiative in the form of a meeting it proposed to ask the UN to convene on Afghanistan.

Russia, however, had said that the meeting wasn’t a sporadic event but a continuing process launched in the framework of the extended troika format with participation of the Afghan parties, aimed at supporting the Intra-Afghan talks at the current critical moment for this country. “As it was earlier agreed among the members, India as well as other regional players could be invited to join it at later stage,” it had said in a statement.

As foreign secretary Harsh Shringla said during his visit to Moscow in February, India and Russia closely cooperate on Afghanistan both bilaterally and also within the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group and other formats.

While India continues to support international efforts for peace in Afghanistan, it remains concerned about the role of Pakistan’s spy agency ISI and its influence over the Taliban. Shringla had conveyed to the Russians that the peace process should not lead to any ungoverned space that can be used by terror groups to target countries in the region. Moscow had also conveyed to the foreign secretary that its own engagement with Pakistan centred around the peace efforts in Afghanistan and that it remained mindful of India’s security interests.

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