Foreign Office spokesperson criticizes India for playing ‘role of spoiler,’ claiming it is going against international efforts for peace talks
Pakistan on Thursday welcomed Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar’s official visit to China, stressing that as a neighboring country Beijing has an important role to play in the ongoing Afghan peace process.
“We believe that China, being a neighboring country to Afghanistan, does have an important role to play in the Afghan peace process,” Foreign Office spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri told a weekly press briefing. He was referring to a nine-member Taliban delegation, led by Mullah Baradar, traveling to Tianjin to meet Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and other officials a day earlier. According to a statement issued by China’s Foreign Ministry, the talks focused on peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan and the Taliban’s relations with other terrorist groups, including the East Turkestan Islamic Movement.
The visit is being seen as another example of the Taliban shoring up their legitimacy as they continue to make significant gains in large parts of Afghanistan, with some estimates claiming they now control more than 60 percent of the country’s territory.
“We have consistently maintained that at this critical juncture in the Afghan peace process, all energies must be focused on reaching an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement in Afghanistan. Reduction in violence leading to ceasefire is particularly significant in this regard,” said Chaudhri. He noted that both Pakistan and China had opposed the Afghan conflict, adding that they were united in facilitating and supporting an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process.
“Pakistan is a close and brotherly neighbor of Afghanistan, and the only country that has consistently emphasized that there is no military solution to the Afghan conflict,” the spokesperson reiterated.
Responding to a question on Indian criticism of the Taliban’s China visit, Chaudhri said it was unfortunate that India was “among the spoilers of the peace process.” He said such thinking was “also reflected by its [India’s] continued opposition to the Afghan peace process and the efforts being made by the international community in this regard.”
Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Arindam Bagchi had, a day earlier, commented on the Baradar visit by claiming the “unilateral imposition” of any single party could not lead to stability in Afghanistan. “Unilateral will of imposition by any party will not be democratic, cannot lead to stability, and cannot provide legitimacy,” he had said, despite Delhi also reaching out to the Taliban in the recent past.
The Foreign Office spokesperson stressed that Pakistan had no plans to downgrade its relationship with Afghanistan over the alleged abduction of the Afghan envoy’s daughter in Islamabad. “Pakistan has no intention to downgrade diplomatic relations with Afghanistan despite the recent case of the daughter of the Afghan ambassador, which compelled Kabul to recall its ambassador and other senior diplomats from Islamabad,” he said. “Regarding the possibility of the downgrading of diplomatic relations with Afghanistan, Pakistan believes in maintaining close, cooperative and brotherly relations with Afghanistan. There is no plan to downgrade our diplomatic relations with Afghanistan,” he stressed, adding that Islamabad believed the cooperation of the envoy and his daughter was critical to concluding the probe. Referring to statements from some Afghan officials criticizing Pakistan over the incident, he claimed these did not represent the will of the people of Afghanistan and would not be allowed to adversely impact ties between Islamabad and Kabul.
To another question on the next meeting of the Joint Cooperation Committee, which oversees decision-making on matters related to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, he said new dates for it would be announced soon, adding the foreign ministers of both countries had discussed the issue during a recent strategic dialogue.