Guess what? The India-Central Asia joint working group on Afghanistan met in New Delhi for the first time on Tuesday and the participants discussed regional threats of terrorism, extremism, radicalization, and drug trafficking.
- The participants also emphasised that the territory of Afghanistan should not be used for sheltering, training, planning, or financing any terrorist acts and reaffirmed that no terrorist organizations, including those designated by UNSC resolution 1267, should be provided sanctuary, or allowed to use the territory of Afghanistan.
- Members exchanged views on the current situation in Afghanistan, including the political, security, and humanitarian situations and while emphasising respect for sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity, and non-interference in its internal affairs, the sides reiterated their support for a peaceful, secure, and stable Afghanistan.
- The JWG emphasized the importance of the formation of a truly inclusive and representative political structure that respects the rights of all Afghans and ensures equal rights for women, girls, and members of minority groups, including access to education.
- The meeting was attended by the special envoys and senior officials of India, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
In the meantime, the country representative of the UNODC in Afghanistan highlighted the partnership of India and the UNODC in fighting the menace of narcotics in Afghanistan and thanked India for providing humanitarian aid for the Afghan drug-user population.
Back story: In June last year, India re-established its diplomatic presence in Kabul by deploying a “technical team” to its embassy in the Afghan capital.
- India had withdrawn its officials from the embassy after the Taliban seized power in August 2021 following concerns over their security.
- It should be noted that India has not yet recognized the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, in another development, neighboring countries too met regarding Afghanistan on Tuesday and discussed the current humanitarian situation. Russia and six nations bordering Afghanistan have set up a club to discuss ways to achieve long-term peace in the war-torn nation. At the inaugural meeting on Tuesday, they called for a freeze on Afghan central bank assets to be lifted.
- Special representatives from Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan convened in Tashkent and plan to meet regularly to discuss issues facing Afghanistan, Uzbekistan’s foreign ministry said.
- The group urged Western nations to lift the freeze on the Afghan central bank’s assets, Uzbek special representative Ismatilla Ergashev said. “The representatives of these countries emphasised that the return of the money of the Central Bank of Afghanistan should be used primarily to pay the salaries of… school teachers and doctors, and at the same time to support the part of the population which is in a difficult situation,” he told a briefing.
- The United States froze some $7 billion in central bank assets after the Afghan government was toppled by Taliban forces in 2021, with a further $2 billion frozen in European banks.
- While these countries have always emphasized the lifting of world restrictions in their meetings, they have asked the Taliban to be accountable to the will of the people and the world.
Zoom out: These high-level meetings come even as India is cosying up to Taliban and leaving aside the Pakistan theatre. New Delhi also announced a fresh tranche of assistance of 20,000 metric tonnes of wheat to Afghanistan and the consignments will be sent through the Chabahar Port in Iran.
- The wheat will be supplied in partnership with the UN World Food Programme.
- Months after the Taliban captured power in Kabul in August 2021, India had announced an assistance of 50,000 metric tonnes of wheat to Afghan people as they were reeling under a severe food crisis. Subsequently, the consignments were sent to Afghanistan using the land route through Pakistan. Islamabad had granted the transit facility after nearly months of discussions.
- India has been pitching for providing unimpeded humanitarian aid to Afghanistan to address the unfolding humanitarian crisis in the country.