India has stressed that it will not “endorse” treating the Afghan government on par with elements of the Taliban, even as it reiterated that terrorism and not ethnicity is the greatest threat to peace in an Afghanistan on the verge of a historic transition.
“Treating the Government of Afghanistan on par with elements of the erstwhile Taliban regime is something we will never endorse,” Ambassador Bhagwant Singh Bishnoi, the acting Permanent Representative of India to the UN, said at a Security Council debate on the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) here.
Bishnoi underscored India’s “unwavering” commitment to assist the Afghan people and government as they build a “peaceful, pluralistic, democratic and prosperous” nation.
“India does not have an ‘exit strategy’ in Afghanistan with whom we share civilisational linkages spanning hundreds of years,” he said.
He said India believes the reconciliation process must remain “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled” while respecting the “agreed red lines”.
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Bishnoi noted that the entire Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) member states had recently endorsed the “Afghan-controlled” process of reconciliation.
He said the May 23 terror attack on the Indian Consulate in Herat is a “grim reminder that terrorism, not ethnicity or tribal differences, is the greatest threat to peace and stability in Afghanistan and the chances of the Afghan people attaining a path of self-sustained economic growth and prosperity”.
Bishnoi said India is “distressed” to learn that incidents in the south, southeast and east of the country alone accounted for 3,917 of the total number of incidents in the short period of March-May 2014.
The UN Secretary General has noted that there has also been an increase in incidents where a variety of al-Qaeda affiliates including the Pakistan-based Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan have been regularly undertaking attacks against Afghan security forces, in parallel to the actions of the elements of the erstwhile Taliban regime.
“The whole-hearted support by the international community to developing a prosperous, independent and sovereign Afghanistan capable of defending itself is the only way to defeat this scourge,” Bishnoi said.
Terming the political transition in Afghanistan, set to take place on August 2, as a “significant milestone” in the country’s entire history, Bishnoi expressed India’s “full support to the political, social and economic transition that is taking place”.
“We will never forget the great sacrifice and suffering the brave people of Afghanistan have undergone to reach this milestone. We would like to once again congratulate the people of Afghanistan on their enthusiastic participation in the elections. Afghanistan is standing at the threshold of a historic transition and we would like to assure Afghanistan of the steadfast support of the Indian people,” he said.
He said that while the world’s focus has been on the security and political transitions in Afghanistan, attention should not be diverted from the “equally important” issue of economic development in the country.