Afghanistan issue can be resolved only if everybody on board, including Taliban: Russian foreign minister Lavrov

New Delhi: India's accession to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation has not only "significantly increased the political profile and potential" of the grouping, but also the groups capacity to help stabilise the situation in Central and South Asia, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Monday.

Speaking at an event organised by the Vivekananda International Foundation on new vistas of India-Russia relations, the Russian Minister said that India's joining the SCO will also help "resolve the crisis in and around Afghanistan".

Earlier, Lavrov said India's "independent and responsible" foreign policy has been "an important factor contributing to global and regional security and stability" and hoped that this "legacy would be maintained and strengthened".

He said that the current volume of trade between the two countries was not "satisfactory", and said that the aim is to increase this volume to $30 billion by 2025. He said that as the defence cooperation between the two countries deepens, it will lead to greater transfer of technology and technical know-how from Russia to India.

File image of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. AFP

File image of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. AFP

Lavrov also said the new US strategy of using force in Afghanistan against groups that refuse to cooperate is not likely to work.

"I don't think the recent US strategy on Afghanistan which puts emphasis on use of force to defeat those who refuse to cooperate and engage in violence, frankly, I don't think it would work," Lavrov said in response to a media query. "Like in the last 16 years, the presence of huge army of NATO did not manage either to curb extremism and terrorism or to stop drug trade which has peaked this year. The production of heroin in Afghanistan may have been quadrupled since 9/11," he said.

"It is to be understood and accepted that that this is something which feeds terrorist activities directly. And without precursors this drug production would not be possible. Most precursors come from Europe...We should not have double standards towards terrorism," the Minister added.

Lavrov also denied any support given by Russia to the Taliban as was being alleged by the US, and added that Russia's contact with Taliban was only to "pressurise them to sit down and talk".

"Never ever has there been any proof, any fact that Russia supported the Taliban as suggested by the US. We contacted Taliban only for two reasons. One, when our or our allies' citizens came harm's way and we needed to extract them. And secondly, to pressurise the Taliban to sit down and negotiate. But we always say that they must join negotiations provided they respect the criteria established by the UN Security Council," Lavrov said.

Adding that he lately heard US officials calling upon Taliban to join negotiations without any criteria being respected, Lavrov told the audience that they could "draw your own conclusions".

Lavrov regretted that the US declined the "Moscow Process" and instead decided to go ahead with the "Six Plus One" group. The Six Plus One group formed in early 2016 includes India, Pakistan, Iran, Russia, the US and China in addition to Afghanistan.

He said the situation in Afghanistan could not be resolved without having "everybody" on board, including "the government, the Taliban and those who can really influence the situation, including the neighbours". He said the Kabul Process initiated by the government of Afghanistan in June this year was "too large" and that a smaller group of countries would be needed to resolve the political situation including all Central Asian countries.

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Updated Date: Dec 12, 2017 08:10:58 IST

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