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India issues first statement about Taliban regime

External Affairs Minister Jaishankar addressed the press after meeting his Australian counterpart, both concerned about the Afghan situation


India has issued its first statement on the establishment of the new Taliban government in Afghanistan. In the statement, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said India was concerned about “inclusiveness” in Afghanistan’s new “dispensation”.

Jaishankar was speaking at a press event following India and Australia’s ‘two-plus-two’ ministerial talks. Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh interacted with their Australian counterparts Marise Payne and Peter Dutton respectively.

India and Australia agreed that the situation in Afghanistan was a primary concern while sharing views also on a free, open and secure Indo-Pacific as well as East and South China Sea.

Payne supported the statement from India on inclusion in the new Taliban regime, where she said Australia was concerned about the status of women in Afghanistan as much. Besides, Afghanistan should not become a “breeding ground for terror groups”, she said.

The all-men, all-Sunni interim government of the Taliban, announced on 7 September, was to be inaugurated today, the 20th of the 9/11 terror attacks in the US. The ceremony was, however, cancelled at the last moment due to pressure from the terrorist outfit’s Doha counterparts.

India and Australia stressed also on the importance of combating terrorism without compromise. Jaishankar said, “Today is the 20th of 9/11, it is a reminder if one is still needed, of the importance of combating terrorism without compromise. Close as we are to its epicentre, let us appreciate the value of international cooperation to that end,” he said.

Dutton said Australia would like to start by remembering the victims of the 9/11 terror attacks too. His Indian counterpart Singh said remarkable progress had been made in India-Australia defence transactions.

Dutton said the defence relations of the countries were at a “historic high” with free and open access to sea lanes. Payne said, “Ships of our navies are exercising together… Our mutual logistics support agreement also helped us get oxygen to India.”

The two sides discussed also the situation in Afghanistan at length. “Last month did see the fall of Kabul and along with the ongoing fight against terrorism, the future of Afghanistan remains a central concern to both our countries,” Payne said.

The talks were held amid renewed efforts by the visibly fizzling out Quad member countries to expand cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region. Besides India and Australia, the Quad comprises the US and Japan. Jaishankar said a term like NATO was a “looking back term”, and the Quad was the way forward.

On the “frustration” of international students amid Covid-19, Jaishankar said it was “understandable”. “We discussed the matter in detail. We are having problems with other countries as well — the US and Canada. We will make this a priority,” he added.

Payne said, “I live and work in western Sydney. We have 60,000 students still in Australia. The desire for on-campus experience is understandable, but travel restrictions have not just impacted students but also ministers.”

She said Australia was on its way to vaccinating Aussies that will help get students back. “… I will be the first to welcome students at the airport when they return,” Payne added.

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