India has not been excluded from the efforts to bring peace in Afghanistan, China said Monday, days after it hosted a key meeting with the US, Russia and Pakistan on facilitating the peace process in the war-torn country.
Representatives of China, Russia, and the US held their 3rd consultation on the Afghan peace process in Beijing on July 10-11 following which they also requested Pakistan to join for a surprise quadrilateral meeting.
“China, Russia, and the United States welcomed Pakistan joining the consultation and believe that Pakistan can play an important role in facilitating peace in Afghanistan”, a joint statement issued at the end of the meeting said.
US special envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad, who is currently holding talks with the Taliban to work out an agreement for withdrawal of the US troops and participation of the rebel group in the Afghan government, attended the meeting.
Briefing reporters about the meeting here on Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said: “we have reached some consensus and exchanged views on the current situation in Afghanistan and our effort to help to restore peace and security”.
He said all four countries had agreed to step up coordination and communication and jointly promote reconciliation and peace in Afghanistan.
Hinting that the quadrilateral meeting could be institutionalised in the future, Geng said the future meetings of the four countries will take place with mutual consultations.
Asked why India was not invited to the meeting, he said “China has been in close communication and coordination with all parties including India” on the Afghanistan issue.
The four countries have decided to hold the meeting based on mutual understanding, he said.
“I believe we (China, Russia, the US and Pakistan) don’t exclude India in discussing and helping early settlement of the Afghanistan issue,” he said.
The invitation to Pakistan to take part in the meeting came ahead of its Prime Minister Imran Khan’s first visit to the US starting from July 21 to hold talks with US President Donald Trump during which the peace process in Afghanistan is expected to come up.
In December last year, President Donald Trump announced that the US would pull out troops from Afghanistan.
The US still has about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan, nearly 18 years after the US-led invasion to topple the Taliban.
Afghanistan accuses Pakistan of harbouring the Taliban militants who have been carrying out violent attacks and destabilising the country.
Last month, China formally acknowledged that it hosted a Taliban delegation headed by its chief negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar for talks here.
The meeting was seen as part of China’s stepped-up efforts to enlarge its strategic role in Afghanistan as the US is negotiating its way out of the war-torn country.
Bardar has also been holding talks with Khalilzad.
China, a close ally of Pakistan, has also been trying to iron out differences between Pakistan and Afghanistan over Kabul’s allegations that the Taliban has been making use of Pakistani territory to stage attacks in Afghanistan.
China has also been holding talks with India over the situation in Afghanistan.
Chinese Special envoy in Afghanistan Deng Xijun, who visited New Delhi in May, held talks with top Indian officials of the External Affairs Ministry.
India and China have also conducted a joint programme to train diplomats of Afghanistan.
Trump in his new South Asia strategy unveiled in August 2017 had sought a major role for India in bringing peace in Afghanistan.
He had accused Pakistan of giving “safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror,” and said the time had come “for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilisation, order, and to peace”.