With security concerns pertaining to Afghanistan dominating Delhi’s mind, moves are afoot to organise a conference on the country’s current situation and the future outlook. National Security Advisor Ajit Doval’s team is taking the initiative to hold an in-person meet with key countries in the region and the world.
The Sunday Express has learnt that the country’s top security establishment, the National Security Council Secretariat, is taking the lead in organising the conference and feelers are being sent to Afghanistan’s neighbours such as Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and key players including Russia, China, US and European partners like the EU, France, Germany and the UK. Representatives from the UN are also expected to be invited.
It is learnt that Pakistan’s NSA Moeed Yusuf is also likely to be invited for the conference, and if that works out it will be the first such high level visit from Pakistan since 2016.
New Delhi is exploring dates in November for the conference, and this could be India’s way to get a seat at the table to decide the future course of action on Afghanistan.
“When you are not at the table, you are on the menu… this conference is India’s attempt to set the table, be on the table and decide the agenda,” a source told The Indian Express, underlining the need to actively engage with the world to protect India’s security interests.
Until the fall of Kabul, India had not engaged with the Taliban through publicly-announced official channels.
For Delhi, this is an important play since the government has made it clear that it has redlines on the new Taliban dispensation in Afghanistan — that it should not allow safe havens for terror on its soil, the administration should be inclusive and rights of minorities, women and children must be protected.
But so far, the signs from the Taliban have not been encouraging. This has been the assessment shared by New Delhi with its interlocutors in the last month or so — ever since the Taliban formed its cabinet.
It’s not yet clear whether representatives of the Taliban will be part of the conference in New Delhi.
This comes days after India accepted a Russian invitation to join the Afghanistan talks in Moscow on October 20.
The Taliban, who captured power two months ago, have also been invited to the talks and this will bring them face-to-face with India which evacuated its diplomatic staff from the country.
Confirming the Indian participation, Arindam Bagchi, spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, had said last Thursday: “We have received an invitation for the Moscow format meeting on Afghanistan on October 20. We will be participating in it.”
It is likely that the MEA will send a Joint Secretary-level officer for the meeting.