New Delhi: India on Friday engaged in peace talks with the Afghan Taliban for the first time at a multilateral meeting in Moscow. 

Former diplomats nominated by the Indian government shared the table with the Taliban in the first such public engagement since the IC-814 hijack in 1999.

India, however, said that its presence in the talks with the Taliban was not due to any "compulsion", according to a report in The Indian Express.

The Indian move comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to New Delhi last month for the annual bilateral summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

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A joint statement was issued that said both India and Russia supported the Afghan government's efforts towards the realisation of an Afghan-led, and Afghan-owned national peace reconciliation process.

Before the meet, New Delhi has said it was not going to talk to Taliban, and cleared its presence at the Moscow format was not out of any “compulsion”. 

Sources said the Indian representatives — former Indian ambassador to Afghanistan Amar Sinha and former Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan T C A Raghavan — did not make any statement on behalf of New Delhi at the meeting.

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Moscow, which had sent invitations for what is called the Moscow Format talks to Afghanistan, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, the US and the Afghan Taliban, has said no one should play “geopolitical games” in Afghanistan and participation of Taliban and Afghan High Peace Council representatives was aimed at creating conditions for direct talks.

In opening remarks, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said: “No one should think in terms of geopolitical games that may result in another transformation of Afghanistan into a field for competition between external players with drastic consequences both for the Afghans and their neighbours.”

He said the issues Afghanistan has been facing can be resolved only through political means.

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“We are determined to make every possible effort to facilitate the opening of a new page in the history of Afghanistan,” Lavrov was quoted saying by the state-run Tass news agency.

Lavrov said the conference was “aimed at building an inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue in order to advance the national reconciliation process.”

“Russia supports the preservation of a united and indivisible Afghanistan in which all ethnic groups populating the country could live peacefully and happily. I have no doubts that the other participants of the Moscow format share this approach and that we all go by basic national interests of the Afghan people,” he said before the talks continued behind closed doors.

In New Delhi, ministry of external affairs’ spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said: “Where did we say that there will be talks with Taliban? We did not say that India will talk to Taliban.”

He also rejected suggestions that India had attended out of compulsion. “There was no compulsion for us to attend the meeting. We took a considered decision to attend the meeting at a non-official level,” he said.

While a five-member Taliban delegation led by Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai, head of the Taliban’s political council in Qatar, attended the meeting, Sinha and Raghavan sat at the table.

(With agency inputs)