The respective national security advisers of Russia, Iran and five central Asian countries are arriving in Delhi tomorrow ahead of the Delhi Regional Security Dialogue on Afghanistan. National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval, who will meet his counterparts bilaterally as well, will chair the meet.
Sources said that the meeting, in which Pakistan and China have declined to participate, would seek to share a “common understanding of concerns” shared by Afghanistan’s neighbours due to the Taliban takeover on 15 August and build consensus on the way forward to deal with threats.
According to officials, the purpose is to stabilise Afghanistan with the so-called Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP) attacking Shi’ahs and other non-Sunni minorities in the country and al Qaeda showing signs of revival — rather than resurrect any opposition to the Taliban regime. They said the greatest apprehension from an unstable Afghanistan under the influence of the Pakistani deep state is the drought-prone lawless country descending into total chaos and turning into a hub of global jihad.
Hundreds of children have succumbed to bombings in the first half of this year in the war-ravaged country, Unicef has reported.
While Russia is worried about the security threat to the central Asian republics, Iran is concerned about rising Pakistani interference and persecution of Shi’ahs on both sides of the Durand Line. New Delhi is disturbed about the rising radicalisation in the Indian sub-continent.
“The high-level dialogue will review and deliberate upon measures to address relevant security challenges and support the people of Afghanistan in promoting peace, security and stability. India has called for a unified international response to address the security and humanitarian challenges facing Afghanistan,” said a statement by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), referring to India’s traditional “close and friendly ties” with the people of Afghanistan.
Officials said the Chinese security chief had stated that he could not attend due to “scheduling difficulties”, ostensibly due to the CPC Central Committee plenum this week as well as strict quarantine regulations in China. Pakistan’s NSA had publicly declined the invitation. It had also refused to attend previous iterations of the regional NSA dialogue held in Iran in 2018 and 2019 as it did not want to share the forum with India, the officials said.
India has not invited the Taliban or former political leaders of Afghanistan like Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, the officials said.
In the past few months, Doval has engaged with the other NSAs at different bilateral and multilateral summits. The most common threats, according to the officials arranging the meet tomorrow, are:
- terrorism inside Afghanistan and its cross-border spread
- worries of the Taliban ideology
- radicalism and extremism being exported
- the problems emanating from the large cache of military equipment left behind by the US and NATO forces when they left Afghanistan
- cross-border migration and refugees
- the growing concerns over the production and export of drugs from the country
In addition, the countries participating had not “legitimised” the Taliban regime, sources said. They share a common perception of Pakistan as one of the “sources of the problems” in Afghanistan with a “serious credibility gap” between its actions and intentions.
After the Taliban annexation of Afghanistan and formation of an “interim government” with Pakistan’s backing, the MEA observed that New Delhi’s role as a major development and trade partner to Kabul had shrunk, but officials said that all participating countries had been “keen” on India hosting the conference to reinforce its “importance” in dealing with the challenges.
“Each of these countries says bilaterally that there is convergence on worries, points of concern are very similar. Also our objectives in Afghanistan- we speak of diversity, respecting minority rights, the culture of moderation and rational thought, all these other countries share with us,” a source said.
However, they conceded that there were some differences between the participants, given that Russia and Iran maintain embassies in Kabul while countries like Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have held bilateral talks with Taliban ministers on issues like connectivity.
India has had limited interactions with the Taliban regime in Kabul. Its officials met the Taliban leadership officially only twice.
Given the security concerns, the government has not allowed Afghan refugees in large numbers, including members of the resistance or opposition to the Taliban.
India has not announced any monetary aid for Afghanistan at donor conferences either. Meanwhile, Islamabad has turned down New Delhi’s proposal to send wheat and medicines by road to Afghanistan.
India still maintains a “small team” in Kabul for consular issues, according to an official.
“Our engagement with Taliban is commensurate with our own national requirements and interests so we will not replicate what others are doing. That judgement has to be left to the government,” an official said in response to a question from The Hindu.
The conference will be held in the morning the day after tomorrow in Delhi, but officials said plans for the visiting delegations were afoot for their stay from Tuesday toThursday.
Doval will meet his counterparts from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan tomorrow and the others after the regional dialogue plenary session in the morning of 10 November. Some of the delegates will travel to Amritsar and Agra for sightseeing, the officials said.
The sources said that Doval would host the delegates for a musical evening and dinner on 10 November. All eight participants will jointly call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.