: Foreign Minister S Jaishankar and his Afghan counterpart Haneef Atmar on Tuesday discussed the latest developments in Afghanistan against the backdrop of a violent campaign by the Taliban to take control of the territory.
Jaishankar and Atmar met in the Tajik capital Dushanbe on the sidelines of a meeting of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) foreign ministers. The two ministers will also attend a meeting of the SCO Contracts Group on Afghanistan on Wednesday.
The meeting provided an opportunity for both sides to compare notes on developments in Afghanistan, especially the security situation, between the rapid withdrawal of US and foreign forces, said people familiar with the developments on condition of anonymity.
The Taliban have stepped up attacks on rural areas of many provinces, particularly in northern Afghanistan, and have taken control of key border crossings and regions bordering Iran, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. The violence coincided with the US saying it has completed 90% of the withdrawal of its troops and that the process will be completed by August 31st.
After his meeting with Atmar, Jaishankar wrote on Twitter: My visit to Dushanbe started by meeting with FM Afghanistan @MHaneefAtmar. Rate it for updates on the latest developments. We look forward to the meeting of the SCO Contact Group for Afghanistan tomorrow.
There were no other details on the meeting from the Indian side. While India is a member of the SCO, Afghanistan has observer status with the group.
Atmar said in a tweet that he will chair the SCO Contact Group meeting on Afghanistan. Also look forward to bilateral FM engagements with #SCO countries to discuss our cooperation on peace, security and economic development, he added.
The Afghan foreign minister also held a meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who wrote on Twitter: The fates of Pakistan and Afghanistan are intertwined. We believe that working together will help us realize a stronger regional connection and greater people-centered connections. I look forward to seeing @MHaneefAtmar in Islamabad to continue our collective efforts.
Jaishankar is expected to hold more meetings with counterparts from SCO member countries, including Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. This will be the first personal meeting between the two ministers since they held talks on the boundaries of another SCO meeting in Moscow in September last year.
India has consistently expressed concern about the escalation of violence in Afghanistan and called for a comprehensive ceasefire as efforts continue to find a political solution. Jaishankar has also stressed the need to have a legitimate government in Kabul amid fears that the Taliban will try to seize power by force.
New Delhi withdrew all its diplomats, staff and security personnel from its consulate in Kandahar over the weekend after fierce clashes erupted between the Taliban and security forces in and around the southern Afghan city.
In a separate development, an 11-member team of Afghan politicians is expected to travel to Qatar by the end of this week for talks with the Taliban, the Tolo News channel reported.
Abdullah Abdullah, the chief peace negotiator in Afghanistan, former President Hamid Karzai, former Vice President Yunus Qanooni, Mohammad Mohaqiq, Abdul Rashid Dostum, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Fatima Gailani will be part of the team. It is unclear who would represent the Taliban in the Doha talks.
Abdullah Abdullah, head of the High Council for National Reconciliation, and Karzai said on Tuesday that they expected significant steps in the peace process within the next few days.
The US special envoy for reconciliation in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, is also visiting the region and met with negotiators in Doha this week.
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