PM on Kabul: Questions on acceptability, think together on recognition

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For the first time since the fall of Kabul to the Taliban, Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised questions Friday on the “acceptability” of the new “system” in Afghanistan and flagged concerns that the change of power there took place without negotiations, and was not inclusive.

In his intervention at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe, Modi called upon the international community to take a decision on the critical question of “recognition” of the new dispensation in Kabul in a “thoughtful and collective manner”.

The Prime Minister, who did not name the Taliban in his speech, said if instability and fundamentalism continue in Afghanistan, it “will lead to terrorist and extremist ideologies all over the world”.

And this, he said, will encourage other extremist groups to seek power through violence — a clear warning to the global community.

Underlining that all SCO countries have been victims of terrorism, he said they must ensure that the soil of Afghanistan is “not used to spread terrorism in any country”.

Modi addressed the SCO gathering virtually. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan was among those in the audience in Dushanbe. Also at the venue were Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

Pointing to another challenge, Modi said the current situation in Afghanistan might lead to an “uncontrolled flow of drugs, illegal weapons, and human trafficking”.

In a veiled reference to the US leaving behind sophisticated weaponry in Afghanistan, he said that “a large amount of advanced weapons remain in Afghanistan” and, therefore, there will be “risk of instability in the entire region”.

Through his strongly-worded but carefully-crafted statement, the Prime Minister articulated New Delhi’s red lines a month after the Taliban captured power and subsequently announced a cabinet with several members of the anti-India Haqqani Network, handpicked by Pakistan’s ISI.

“The first issue is that the change of power in Afghanistan is not inclusive, and has taken place without negotiation. This raises questions about the acceptability of the new system,” Modi told the SCO.

“Representation of all sections of Afghan society, including women and minorities, is also important. And therefore, it is essential that the global community decides on the recognition of the new system in a thoughtful and collective manner. India supports the central role of the UN on this issue,” he said.

“Second, if instability and fundamentalism continue in Afghanistan, it will lead to terrorist and extremist ideologies all over the world. Other extremist groups may also be encouraged to seek power through violence. We all countries have been victims of terrorism in the past. So together we must ensure that the soil of Afghanistan is not used to spread terrorism in any country. SCO member countries should develop strict and common norms on this issue. Going forward, these norms can also become a template for global anti-terror cooperation,” he said.

“These norms should be based on the principle of zero tolerance towards terrorism. These should have a code of conduct to prevent activities like cross-border terrorism and terror financing. And there should also be a system of their enforcement,” he said.

“Third, developments in Afghanistan…could lead to an uncontrolled flow of drugs, illegal weapons, and human trafficking. A large amount of advanced weapons remain in Afghanistan. Due to these, there will be a risk of instability in the entire region. The RATS (regional anti-terrorist structure) mechanism in SCO can play a positive role in monitoring these flows and enhancing information sharing. From this month, India is presiding over the council of this institution and has some concrete proposals in this regard,” he said.

The fourth concern, Modi said, is the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, where India is ready to help and be part of any regional or global initiative to help Afghan society.

The Dushanbe Declaration, on which all countries including India, Pakistan, and China signed off, said SCO member-countries expressed their “support for Afghanistan as an independent, neutral, united, democratic and peaceful State, free of terrorism, war and drugs”.

“Member States believe that it is critical to have an inclusive Government in Afghanistan, with representatives from all ethnic, religious and political groups of Afghan society,” the declaration said.

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