Expressing solidarity with the Afghan people, a group of intellectuals, former bureaucrats and politicians have issued an appeal to the Indian government, international community and to Taliban and other political forces in Afghanistan to come together for peace, national reconciliation and national reconstruction. They have asked the Indian government to engage with the Taliban to achieve the objectives.

Among those who issued the appeal as the “Indian Friends of Afghanistan” are former union ministers Yashwant Sinha, Natwar Singh and Mani Shankar Aiyar, former bureaucrats K.C. Singh and Najeeb Jung, former IPS officer Julio Rebeiro, writers Vedpratap Vaidik and Saeed Naqvi, Supreme Court lawyer Majeed Memon, activist Sandeep Pandey and founder of Forum for a New South Asia Sudheendra Kulkarni.

They have expressed concern over the current situation in Afghanistan, harking back on the millennia-old cultural relations between India and Afghanistan that are “deep and unbreakable” symbolised by the close partnership between Mahatma Gandhi and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan during India’s anti-colonial struggle.

“All the countries in South Asia — especially India, Pakistan and Afghanistan — should strive to make it a region of peace, harmony and collective progress,” they state. They have also expressed the fear that “the fires of terrorism, religious strife and regional turmoil could reach India if peace and stability elude Afghanistan.”

To the Taliban and other political forces in Afghanistan, they have appealed to begin an intra-Afghan peace process leading to a democratic governing

establishment. They have asked them to ensure that no terrorist organisation has a sanctuary in Afghanistan and that its territory is not used for terrorist and extremist activities targeting any country in the world. The group has also asked them to protects Hindus, Sikhs and other non-Muslim minorities, and facilitate the dignified return of those who were forced to leave their country.

They have appealed to the Indian government to provide shelter to the Afghans, who have been forced to leave their country, without any discrimination on grounds of religion. While welcoming the government’s “first official acknowledgement of its engagement with the Taliban in Doha and the positive assurances given by the latter”, the group has said that India should continue to engage with the Taliban. They have also requested the government to permit temporary stay to Afghan journalists, artists and civil society leaders who are feeling threatened by the conditions in their country.

To the international community, the ‘Indian Friends of Afghanistan’ have appealed that no country in the region should be excluded from, nor isolate itself from, collaborative efforts to bring peace in Afghanistan and promote national reconciliation and national reconstruction. “This requires India, Pakistan, China, Russia, Iran and other countries to evolve and implement a common strategy, in cooperation with the United Nations, USA, EU and other members of the international community,” the statement reads. They have also called upon the international community to provide humanitarian aid and assistance to Afghanistan as it is their immediate and common responsibility.
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