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Friday, September 17, 2021

BRICS leaders don’t name Taliban: talks reminder, warning on terror

The New Delhi declaration — it was the first statement by the grouping since the fall of Kabul to the Taliban on August 15 — that followed the BRICS summit, held via virtual mode with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the host, said leaders stressed the need for an “inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue”.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi |
Updated: September 10, 2021 7:28:47 am
Protesters argue with a Taliban soldier during an anti-Pakistan demonstration in Kabul on Tuesday. (WANA via Reuters)

Without mentioning the Taliban or putting the onus on them for the situation in Afghanistan, leaders of the BRICS Thursday expressed concern over “the latest developments” there and called for “refraining from violence and settling the situation by peaceful means”.

The New Delhi declaration — it was the first statement by the grouping since the fall of Kabul to the Taliban on August 15 — that followed the BRICS summit, held via virtual mode with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the host, said leaders stressed the need for an “inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue”.

“We underscore the priority of fighting terrorism, including preventing attempts by terrorist organisations to use Afghan territory as terrorist sanctuary and to carry out attacks against other countries, as well as drug trade within Afghanistan,” the declaration stated.

For Delhi, this is a warning to anti-India terrorist groups like the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, and for Beijing, it’s a message for the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) which has been active in the restive Xinjiang region.

“We stress the need to contribute to fostering an inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue so as to ensure stability, civil peace, law and order in the country,” the New Delhi declaration said, two days after the Taliban announced a government which lacked inclusivity and appeared non-representative of the country’s population.

The declaration condemned the terror attack at the Kabul international airport, for which the Islamic State (Khorasan) had claimed responsibility.

“We condemn in the strongest terms the terrorist attacks near the Hamid Karzai Kabul International Airport that resulted in a large number of deaths and injuries,” it said.

On the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, it said: “We emphasise the need to address the humanitarian situation and to uphold human rights, including those of women, children and minorities.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the 13th BRICS summit. (Video screengrab)

This year’s BRICS statement on Afghanistan is very different from that of last year which was issued in November.

At that time, the Moscow declaration — since Russia was the chair — called for the establishment of “long-term peace in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan” and reaffirmed “our unwavering support to the people of Afghanistan in its efforts toward building a stable, inclusive, peaceful, independent and prosperous sovereign State”.

Words such as “independent and prosperous sovereign State” are missing from the declaration this time.

And last year’s statement had welcomed the launch of intra-Afghan negotiations and support for the “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process”. This time, there is no mention of the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.

This year’s statement comes after the UNSC resolution in which the Taliban were not held accountable, and yet Russia and China had abstained.

On terrorism, Indian officials said Thursday that the BRICS declaration was a consensus since all countries had backed India’s position.

The New Delhi declaration said: “We recognize the threat emanating from terrorism, extremism conducive to terrorism and radicalizat

ion. We commit to combating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including the cross-border movement of terrorists, and terrorism financing networks and safe havens. We reiterate that terrorism should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilization or ethnic group.”

“We reject double standards in countering terrorism and extremism conducive to terrorism,” it said, calling for expeditious finalisation and adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.

Raising the issue of Afghanistan at the summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the withdrawal of US forces and its allies from Afghanistan had led to a “new crisis” and the BRICS countries would have to pay special attention to the situation there.

He said Afghanistan should not become a threat to its neighbouring countries, a source of terrorism and drug trafficking.

Putin was the only leader who raised the issue of Afghanistan directly. “The withdrawal of the Americans and their allies from Afghanistan caused a new crisis situation, and it is still not entirely clear how all this will affect regional and global security,” he said, according to Russian news agency TASS.

“Naturally, Russia, as well as its BRICS partners, consecutively advocate the long-desired peace and stability on Afghan soil. The people of this country have been fighting for decades and deserve their right to define their state themselves,” Putin said.

“Meanwhile, we are, of course, not interested in Afghanistan remaining a threat for the neighbouring states, in terrorism or illegal drug trafficking threatening us from the Afghan territory. We are interested in stopping the migration influx. We advocate the peace and worthy life of Afghans in their homeland,” he said.

In his statement, Modi said: “There is no doubt that there is much we can be proud of. However, it is also important that we do not become too self-satisfied and we must ensure that BRICS is even more result oriented in the next 15 years.”

He said the theme that India has selected for its tenure of chairmanship demonstrates exactly this priority –‘BRICS@15: Intra BRICS Cooperation for Continuity, Consolidation and Consensus’.

“These four Cs are in a way the fundamental principles of our BRICS partnership,” he said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping made five proposals for the BRICS: strengthen public health cooperation in the spirit of solidarity; strengthen international cooperation on vaccines in the spirit of equitable access for all; economic cooperation in the spirit of mutual benefit; political and security cooperation in the spirit of fairness and justice; and strengthen people-to-people exchanges in the spirit of mutual learning, according to Xinhua, China’s state-run official news agency.

China will donate 100 million more doses of Covid-19 vaccines to developing countries within this year on top of a donation of USD 100 million to COVAX, Xinhua said.

While Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro recalled his visit to India fondly, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said their collective response to Covid-19 had demonstrated what can be achieved when they work together.

“As BRICS countries we must continue to safeguard our people’s lives, livelihoods, support global economic recovery and enhance the resilience of public systems,” Ramaphosa said.

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