As in the case of Syria, Russia’s MFA cautiously welcomed the US announcement of withdrawal of half its military contingent from Afghanistan, calling it a move in the right direction, but adding the caveat that its implementation in practice remains to be seen. However, Russia was less amused by the USs closed-door bilateral consultations on Afghanistan with the Taliban and selected countries, from which Russia was obviously excluded. Welcoming “in principle” talks of US Special Representative Khalilzad with the Taliban in Abu Dhabi, in which Saudi Arabia, UAE and Pakistan participated, the MFA spokeswoman said such talks should be transparent and should take into account the interests of Afghanistan, its neighbours and other states in the region that are directly affected by the threats coming from Afghanistan. FM Lavrov impressed this again in his public remarks during the Pakistani Foreign Minister’s visit to Moscow (specifically to discuss Afghanistan), cautioning against “too narrow” or “overly expanded” formats and suggesting that such talks should take into account the interests of all relevant stakeholders. He pointedly added that, with India and Pakistan both in the SCO, the SCO-Afghanistan Contact group is a “very promising format”. 

The wheel seems to be coming round full circle since the Russian MFA told the US Ambassador in Moscow (August 29, 2017) that Russia does not agree with President Trump’s Afghanistan and South Asia strategy of applying “selective pressure” on “certain states in the region” [read, Pakistan] and that the “interests of all states in the region” should be accommodated.   

 

December 30, 2018

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About the Author

Born in 1955, Ambassador Raghavan holds a B.Sc. (Honours) degree in Physics and a B.E. in Electronics & Communications Engineering. He joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1979. From 1979 to 2000, he had diplomatic assignments in USSR, Poland, United Kingdom, Vietnam and South Africa, interspersed with assignments in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in New Delhi. From 2000 to 2004, he was Joint Secretary in the Indian Prime Minister's Office dealing with Foreign Affairs, Nuclear Energy, Space, Defence and National Security. Thereafter, he was Ambassador of India to Czech Republic (2004 - 2007) and to Ireland (2007 - 2011).

He was Chief Coordinator of the BRICS Summit in New Delhi (March 2012) and Special Envoy of the Government of India to Sudan and South Sudan (2012-13). Ambassador Raghavan conceptualized and piloted the creation of the Development Partnership Administration (DPA) in MEA, which implements and monitors India’s economic partnership programs in developing countries, with an annual budget of $1-1.5 billion. He headed DPA in 2012-13. From March 2013 to January 2014, he oversaw the functioning of the Administration, Security, Information Technology and other related Divisions of MEA. Since October 2013, he was also Secretary [Economic Relations] in MEA, steering India’s bilateral and multilateral external economic engagement. Ambassador Raghavan retired from the Indian Foreign Service in January 2016, after serving from 2014 as Ambassador of India to Russia. Since September 2016, he is Convenor of the National Security Advisory Board of the Government of India.

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