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India joins inaugural session of intra-Afghan peace talks in Doha

New Delhi: External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Saturday said the peace process in Afghanistan must respect sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country as he joined the inaugural session of the intra-Afghan negotiations in Doha through video conference. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said Jaishankar's participation was in response to an invitation extended to him by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Qatar Mohammad bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani.

An official delegation led by Joint Secretary (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran division) in the MEA participated in the inaugural ceremony in Doha, it said. Negotiators from the Afghan government and the Taliban will hold talks as part of intra-Afghan negotiations in Doha to bring lasting peace to Afghanistan. In his address, Jaishankar reaffirmed India's long-led position that any peace process in the country must be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled.

He also said that Afghan peace process has to respect the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of Afghanistan and preserve the progress made in the establishment of a democratic Islamic republic in Afghanistan.

Jaishankar said the interests of minorities, women and vulnerable sections of society must be preserved and the issue of violence across the country and its neighbourhood has to be effectively addressed, according to the MEA.

"The friendship of our peoples is a testimony to our history with Afghanistan. No part of Afghanistan is untouched by our 400-plus development projects. Confident that this civilizational relationship will continue to grow," the external affairs minister tweeted.

Jaishankar referred to the millennia-old relationship between India and Afghanistan, which he said had withstood the test of time.

"The external affairs minister highlighted India's role as a major development partner of Afghanistan with over 400 projects completed in all the 34 provinces of Afghanistan," the MEA said in a statement.

It said he wished for the success of the intra-Afghan negotiations in delivering to the people of Afghanistan what they have longed for - a peaceful and prosperous future in an independent and sovereign nation, the MEA added.

Last month, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani agreed to release 400 Taliban prisoners, paving the way for beginning of the long-awaited peace process aimed at ending nearly two-decades of conflict in the war-torn country.

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