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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Five Central Asian Foreign Ministers to discuss Afghanistan at Delhi table

🔴 Foreign Ministers of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan will participate. Their previous meeting was organised by India in October 2020 via video-conference.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi |
Updated: December 19, 2021 8:03:24 am
Afghanistan, New Delhi, S Jaishankar, India-Central Asia Dialogue, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Indian Express, India news, current affairs, Indian Express News Service, Express News Service, Express News, Indian Express India NewsExternal Affairs Minister S Jaishankar with Tajikistan Foreign Minister M Sirojiddin Muhriddin on Saturday. PTI Photo

AMID concerns over human rights as well as the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, New Delhi and Islamabad are engaging, each on its own track, with key partners in the region and beyond with a conference in each capital Sunday.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar will host the 3rd meeting of the India-Central Asia Dialogue in New Delhi Sunday. Foreign Ministers of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan will participate. Their previous meeting was organised by India in October 2020 via video-conference. Three of these five, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, share a border with Afghanistan.

In Islamabad on Sunday, Pakistan will host the 17th extraordinary session of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) Council of Foreign Ministers, with Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi saying he hoped they will “reach a consensus on measures to improve the situation in Afghanistan”.

Significantly, Foreign Ministers of the five Central Asian countries are also members of the OIC grouping and they will skip the meeting in Islamabad to attend the dialogue in New Delhi.

Sunday’s conference here will also set the stage for the presence of the leaders of these five Central Asian nations at the Republic Day celebrations next month, Covid situation permitting: Kazakhstan’s Kassym-Jomart Tokayev; Uzbekistan’s Shavkat Mirziyoyev; Tajikistan’s Emomali Rahmon; Turkmenistan’s Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow; and Kyrgyzstan’s Sadyr Japarov.

Since 2012, there has been an active engagement between India and these five Central Asian countries. India considers them as part of India’s “extended neighbourhood”.  Jaishankar visited Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan this year and met with Foreign Minister of Turkmenistan in October 2021.

At Sunday’s meeting, the ministers are expected to discuss further strengthening of relations with India focusing on trade, connectivity and development cooperation. They will also exchange views on regional and international issues of mutual interest, the MEA said in a statement.  The five Foreign Ministers are expected to pay a joint courtesy call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Jaishankar, who met Tajikistan’s Sirojiddin Muhriddin on Saturday, said:  “…As neighbours of Afghanistan, we have been very concerned at the developments there. And the participation of the Secretary of  (Tajikistan’s) Security Council in the Regional Security Dialogue, which we hosted in November, is something which is deeply appreciated.” He publicly thanked him for Tajikistan’s support to India during the evacuation of Indians — and some members of minority communities — from Afghanistan in August and September.

Sunday’s meeting also follows the November 10 regional security dialogue on Afghanistan for which the NSAs of these five countries were in Delhi along with those from Russia and Iran. At that meeting, hosted by NSA Ajit Doval, all expressed concern at the current situation in Afghanistan.

Incidentally, the same day, Islamabad had hosted special envoys from US, China and Russia to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. This time, too, Pakistan’s Afghan diplomacy is in parallel. Besides OIC members and observers, the Pakistan Foreign Office said, the UN system, international financial institutions, international and regional organisations and non-OIC members, including P-5 countries, European Union and countries like Japan, and Germany have also been invited. Taliban’s Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi arrived in Islamabad on Saturday for the meeting as well.

Sources said that Delhi’s outreach is to the five Central Asian countries who have deep stakes in the stability of Afghanistan while Pakistan is trying to rally the support of Islamic countries in favour of Afghanistan.

OIC Secretary General Hissein Brahim Taha, who arrived in Pakistan on Friday, said it was high time to think how Muslim countries could help their Afghan brethren at this critical juncture.

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