India will have to see how best to protect its interests in Afghanistan and make the “best” of a difficult situation, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said on Wednesday while describing New Delhi’s conversation with the group as “reassuring”. In an interactive session at an industry chamber, he said the Taliban recognised that India has contributed greatly to Afghanistan’s development in the last 20 years and wanted it to provide humanitarian assistance to the country. Shringla said India established some contacts with the Taliban in Doha and Moscow, adding the group want New Delhi to reestablish its embassy in Afghanistan.
At the same time, Shringla reaffirmed the need for an inclusive negotiated political settlement to the Afghan crisis and said that the territory of Afghanistan should not be used to the detriment of any other country. The foreign secretary said the rapid fall of the Ashraf Ghani government and the Taliban’s “very swift” takeover of Kabul left India in a slightly uncomfortable position as the developments in that country were “unexpected”.
“We have also established some contacts with the Taliban, both in Doha as well as in Moscow… I think the Taliban in our conversation with them has been very reassuring,” he said. “They recognised that India has contributed greatly to the people of Afghanistan, that our developmental projects over the last 20 years have greatly contributed to Afghanistan’s development,” Shringla said.
Indian envoy to Qatar Deepak Mittal had a meeting with Taliban leader Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai in Doha in late August. “They would want us to provide humanitarian assistance, they want us to reestablish our embassy there. So they have said good things which is a good start,” he said.
The interactive session was organised by the Indian Chamber of Commerce. In his remarks, the foreign secretary said India has been in touch with all the concerned countries on the Afghan issue.
“We are in touch with all the countries concerned on this issue and we will have to see how best to protect our interests, make the best of a difficult situation,” the foreign secretary said. “But I think, in many senses, we have been quite active and I would say, engaged on the international front to make sure that our larger interests are protected and we are not in any way vulnerable to the new strategic realities in this part of our region,” he added.
Shringla also mentioned the UN Security Council Resolution 2593 on Afghanistan and described it as a “seminal one”. The foreign secretary also said that there was a need to provide humanitarian access to Afghanistan and that there should be no human rights abuses of women, children and minorities.
“The UN Security Council resolution 2593 which is even now a seminal resolution on Afghanistan because it lays the benchmarks of what the international community expects from Afghanistan and what are those requirements from the Taliban. “One is an inclusive negotiated political settlement, the second is that its territory should not be used against the detriment of any other, the third is that they should provide humanitarian access, the fourth is that there should be no human rights abuses on women, children and minorities,” he added.
Shringla said these are the basic benchmarks that the international community would like to hold the current dispensation of Afghanistan accountable on. “And this is something that we have to wait and watch,” he added.
The foreign secretary said the rapid developments in Afghanistan in many senses represented a setback. “But this is a setback that we could not do much about because the US after 20 years of investments and shedding blood in that country decided to pull out,” he said.
“You cannot question their decision to withdraw. Of course, you could certainly have questions about the way it was done but the fact that the Americans decided to pull out after 20 years was a given,” he said. Shringla said India managed to practically evacuate each and every Indian citizen except for a “few who had not essentially told us that they were there but apparently happened to be in different parts of the country.” .
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