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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

First outreach signal: UNSC drops Taliban reference in line on terror

India, which is the President of the UNSC for the month of August, signed off on the statement and issued it in its capacity as the chair for this month.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi |
Updated: August 29, 2021 3:23:24 pm
Afghans queue up for one of Italy’s last military aircraft out of Kabul, Friday. Italy said it had evacuated 4,890 people in all. (Reuters)

Less than two weeks since the Taliban captured power in Afghanistan, the United Nations Security Council has dropped a reference to it from a paragraph in its statement that called on Afghan groups not to support terrorists “operating on the territory of any other country”.

India, which is the President of the UNSC for the month of August, signed off on the statement and issued it in its capacity as the chair for this month.

Essentially, this is the first signal by the international community that the Taliban may no longer be a global outcast.

On August 16, a day after Taliban’s takeover of Kabul, the Permanent Representative of India at the UN, T S Tirumurti, issued a statement on behalf of the UNSC, which included this para: “The members of the Security Council reaffirmed the importance of combating terrorism in Afghanistan to ensure the territory of Afghanistan should not be used to threaten or attack any country, and that neither the Taliban nor any other Afghan group or individual should support terrorists operating on the territory of any other country.”

On August 27, a day after the Kabul airport bombings that killed more than 100 people including 12 US troops, Tirumurti — again as President of UNSC, and on behalf of the Council — issued a statement that condemned the “deplorable attacks”.

However, the August 16 para was reproduced in this statement with one telling change: “The members of the Security Council reiterated the importance of combating terrorism in Afghanistan to ensure the territory of Afghanistan should not be used to threaten or attack any country, and that no Afghan group or individual should support terrorists operating on the territory of any country.”

The reference to the Taliban was omitted indicating that the Taliban was perhaps being seen as a state actor by the UNSC members, including India.

Former India’s Permanent Representative to India at the UN, Syed Akbaruddin, who pointed this out on Twitter, said, “In diplomacy…a fortnight is a long time…The ‘T’ word is gone.”

Officials said that the decision to sign off on the statement has been taken in view of changing “ground realities”. The Taliban has been responsible for much of the evacuation of foreigners and Afghans-at-risk.

While the US says it has evacuated more than 1 lakh people since August 15, the entire Indian Embassy was evacuated on August 17 — a day after the first UNSC statement was issued.

According to data shared by the government, 565 people have been evacuated so far: 175 Embassy personnel, 263 other Indian nationals, 112 Afghan nationals including Hindus and Sikhs, and 15 third-country nationals.

This, officials here believe, along with the safe passage to those being airlifted would not have been possible had the Taliban not cooperated.

Officials said that while India hasn’t engaged with the Taliban in the manner as other UNSC members have, signing off on this statement is a signal that opens up the possibility to engage with the hardline group.

The August 27 statement had strong words on terror but did not hold the Taliban accountable.

“The attacks, which were claimed by Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP), an entity affiliated with Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), resulted in the death and injuries of dozens of civilians, including children, and military personnel,” the statement said. It added: “The members of the Security Council reaffirmed that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security. Deliberately targeting civilians and personnel assisting in the evacuation of civilians is especially abhorrent and must be condemned.”

Sources said the statement puts India’s concerns on terrorism on the frontburner: “The members of the Security Council underlined the need to hold perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism accountable and bring them to justice. They urged all States, in accordance with their obligations under international law and relevant Security Council resolutions, to cooperate actively with all relevant authorities in this regard.”

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