Updated: December 20, 2021 5:03:05 am
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Sunday said India and the Central Asian countries had similar concerns and objectives in Afghanistan, and flagged the goals of “a truly inclusive and representative government, the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking, ensuring unhindered humanitarian assistance, and preserving the rights of women, children, and the minorities”.
“We all also share deep-rooted historical and civilisational ties with Afghanistan,” Jaishankar said to his counterparts from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan who are in New Delhi for the India-Central Asia dialogue. “We must find ways of helping the people of Afghanistan.”
Three of these countries — Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan — share borders with Afghanistan.
In a joint statement, the foreign ministers said the countries discussed the “current situation in Afghanistan and its impact on the region”. They “reiterated strong support for a peaceful, secure and stable Afghanistan while emphasising the respect for sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity, and non-interference in its internal affairs,” the statement said.
“They also discussed the current humanitarian situation and decided to continue to provide immediate humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people.”
The ministers reaffirmed the importance of UNSC Resolution 2593 (2021) which “unequivocally demands that Afghan territory not be used for sheltering, training, planning, or financing terrorist acts, and called for concerted action against all terrorist groups,” the joint statement said.
The ministers also agreed to continue close consultations on the situation in Afghanistan.
While taking note of the outcome document of the Delhi Regional Security Dialogue of November 10 this year, the ministers said there was “a broad ‘regional consensus’ on the issues related to Afghanistan, which includes formation of a truly representative and inclusive government, combating terrorism and drug trafficking, central role of the UN, providing immediate humanitarian assistance for the Afghan people and preserving the rights of women, children and other national ethnic groups”.
They noted that defence- and security-related interactions were an important element of India-Central Asia cooperation, and stressed on the importance of holding regular consultations among the National Security Councils of India and the Central Asian countries in the fight against terrorism and other emerging challenges in the region, the joint statement said.
The ministers “condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and reiterated that providing safe haven, using terrorist proxies for cross-border terrorism, terror financing, arms and drugs trafficking, dissemination of a radical ideology, and abuse of cyber space to spread disinformation and incite violence goes against the basic principles of humanity and international relations”.
They underlined that the perpetrators, organisers, financiers, and sponsors of terrorist acts must be held accountable and brought to justice in accordance with principle of “extradite or prosecute”, and called for early adoption of the UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.
The ministers also called on the international community to strengthen UN-led global counter-terrorism cooperation, and to fully implement relevant UNSC resolutions, Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, and FATF standards, the joint statement said.
Amid increasing concern over the human rights and humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, both New Delhi and Islamabad have been holding their own engagements with key partners in the region and beyond.
As India interacted with the Central Asia republics in New Delhi on Sunday, Islamabad hosted the 17th extraordinary session of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) Council of Foreign Ministers, at which Pakistan’s Shah Mahmood Qureshi expressed hope for “a consensus on measures to improve the situation in Afghanistan”.
Significantly, the foreign ministers of the five Central Asian countries are also members of the OIC grouping, and they skipped the meeting in Islamabad to attend the dialogue in New Delhi.
Sunday’s conference in New Delhi will also set the stage for the presence of the leaders of the five Central Asian nations at the Republic Day celebrations next month, Covid situation permitting: Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon, Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, and President Sadyr Japarov of Kyrgyzstan.
Since 2012, India has engaged actively with the five Central Asian countries in its “extended neighbourhood”. Jaishankar visited Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan this year, and met with the foreign minister of Turkmenistan in October 2021.
The national security advisers of these five countries were in New Delhi for a regional security dialogue on Afghanistan on November 10, which was also attended by the NSAs of Russia and Iran. At the summit, hosted by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, all countries expressed concern at the situation in Afghanistan.
On the same day, Islamabad had hosted special envoys from the United States, China, and Russia to discuss Afghanistan.
On Sunday, Pakistan’s Foreign Office said that besides the OIC members and observers, the UN system, international financial institutions, international and regional organisations, and non-OIC members including the P-5 countries, European Union, and countries like Japan, and Germany had also been invited. The Taliban Foreign Minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, too was present in Islamabad.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Sunday that in the absence of quick action, Afghanistan could potentially become the biggest “man-made crisis in the world”. Khan delivered the keynote address at the 17th extraordinary session of the OIC’s Council of Foreign Ministers.
“Forty one years ago, an extraordinary session of the OIC was held in Pakistan to discuss the situation in Afghanistan,” he told the gathering.
Sources said while New Delhi is reaching out to the Central Asian countries who have high stakes in the stability of Afghanistan, Pakistan is trying to rally the support of Islamic countries. OIC Secretary General Hissein Brahim Taha, who arrived in Pakistan on Friday, said it was time for Muslim countries to think how they could help their Afghan brethren at this critical juncture.
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