The Afghan government has termed it “scientific discussions”, while the Taliban have termed it a “research conference” which was attended in their personal capacity; yet despite the attempt of the participants to not give the talk any concrete label, the recent meeting between Afghan government official and Taliban representatives near Doha, Qatar has been a vital one – one that might indicate the beginning of the long-sought peace process in Afghanistan.

The ‘unofficial’ meeting was attended by over 40 delegates from the afghan government, including women, and United Nation representatives. While none of the participants expected an agreement to come out of this – in fact, none were mandated to – they did manage to pledge similar meetings in the future and the reopening of the Taliban political office in Doha; which has stayed shut after the debacle at its inauguration ceremony in 2013. Ashraf Ghani has insistently and often called on the Taliban to restart the peace processes, who, for their part have shown hints of willingness to end the fighting. Getting the Taliban to the dialogue table has not been the prime impediment in the peace process; there have been several false dawns and breakthroughs on that count, finding an agreeable common ground has been the bane of the talks. It is for this precise reason that this meeting is such a positive development; both parties sounded each other’s perspectives out, without the onus of having to come up with a solution. Although the complete withdrawal of foreign troops – 10,000 of which remain in a support role – is a hurdle, other developments have been quite promising. The Taliban not only agreed to allowing women to get education, they took part in a dialogue on women rights, speaking directly with women representative. The mood of the participants at the end of the meeting also bodes well.

But this smidgen of hope must be taken with a pinch of reality; on Monday Taliban fighters killed 18 police officers in separate attacks in the Badakshan province – showing that while this may be the long-awaited start to peace, there is a long way to go to achieve it.