India backs peace deal sans compromise on rights
NEW DELHI (PAN): India supports a homegrown solution to the 11-year-old Afghan conflict and a peace deal among stakeholders without any compromise on human rights and the constitution, Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid said on Friday.
At a meeting with visiting Afghan journalists in New Delhi, he said: "Talks with the Taliban are an internal matter for Afghanistan, but rebels should not be brought to the negotiating table under any deal that comprises the rights of the people and the constitution of their country."
Khurshid told the 13-member Afghan delegation the Kabul-backed peace scheme should not hinge on a denial of justice to the Afghan people, who paid a huge price during the ongoing the international war against terrorism.
"Human rights, particularly women’s rights, and the freedom of speech in Afghanistan should not be sacrificed for peace," stressed the minister, who asked the Afghan nation to preserve its hard-won gains over the past decade. "You have to be very careful."
The foreign minister said his country would support the Afghan rebels willing to join the Kabul-led peace drive by shunning violence and embracing Afghanistan's laws. India supported the peace parleys because it believed negotiations were the best way out of the quagmire.
"Peace, which can turn Afghanistan into a trade hub between South and Central Asia, is in the larger interest of the entire region," Khurshid remarked.
On Indian assistance to Afghanistan, the minister said New Delhi remained committed to its aid pledges beyond 2014, a deadline when most of foreign combat troops would leave the war-torn country.
India's activities in Afghanistan were based on its people's demands because the Afghans knew better their needs, he continued. "And similarly, the Afghans know better than others how to bring peace to their country."
He said India's role in executing basic infrastructure development projects in Afghanistan was crucial and recalled his country's efforts at constructing the Salma Dam, the parliament's building and enhancing the capacity of Afghan officials.
Khurshid also supported free, fair and transparent presidential elections 2014 to enable the Afghans to choose their leadership. He said India would play its part in ensuring a credible vote once Afghanistan finalised its plans.
About neighbouring countries’ interference in Afghanistan, h said India would welcome every effort that could bring peace to Afghanistan and not indulge in anything that might further complicate the situation.
"We want everyone to respect the wishes of the Afghan people and the sovereignty of their country," Khurshid insisted, explaining India was following a clear policy on Afghanistan's rehabilitation to avoid criticism and creating problems for the friendly nation.
However, he said India's care did not mean it would change its plans and policies on Afghanistan or minimise support under pressure from others.
The minister alleged there were elements contributing to insecurity in the frontier border region with Pakistan's support, referring to cross-border shelling into eastern Afghan provinces. He said the attacks were unacceptable and that India and Afghanistan shared some common threats.
He believed the situation had changed on the Indian border with Pakistan after Islamabad shifted attention to its frontier with Afghanistan.
On people-to-people contact, Khurshid said the two countries had signed a strategic agreement that paved the ground for bilateral interaction in diverse fields. He promised India would make efforts to enhance relations with Afghan civil society groups.
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