“India and Afghanistan have historic ties, and I believe that dialogue between India and the Taliban is important, and it would be important that issues of concern like this [terrorism] are raised directly,” Khalilzad said in an interview with The Hindu newspaper during his visit to India.
The envoy said that as the peace process gets more serious, and the US-Taliban agreement goes into the next stages, “we want India to take a more active role in the peace process.”
This is the first time the US has publicly suggested an engagement between India and the Taliban. New Delhi, that still considers the Taliban a terror group allied to Pakistan, has thus far distanced itself from any talks.
During their meeting with Khalilzad on Thursday, Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval had raised concerns over increasing violence in Afghanistan and the need to protect minorities including Afghan Sikhs and Hindus.
In a veiled reference towards Pakistan, New Delhi also told the US official that “putting an end to terrorist safe havens and sanctuaries is necessary for enduring and sustainable peace and stability in Afghanistan”.
According to Khalilzad, the US-Taliban agreement is a necessary step to transition to the Afghan owned process. He said the US came to Afghanistan “to ensure Taliban breaks from Al Qaeda and doesn’t allow it and other groups to use Afghan soil to attack us.”
“My aim on this trip is as much to ensure that the release of prisoners is sorted out. So while we are not as far along as we or India would have liked, we don’t see a better alternative to this process,” Khalilzad said.
He said that both India and Pakistan can benefit from peace in Afghanistan, in terms of security and economic development.