'India's terms with Afghan govt depends on its nature'

India’s engagement with new regime in Afghanistan will depend on its nature, government tells political leaders

Jaishankar and Shringla informed the leaders that New Delhi so far evacuated 565 people from Afghanistan

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar. Credit: AFP Photo

India will decide on its engagement with the new regime in Afghanistan after taking into account whether it will be born out of an inclusive and broad-based power-sharing arrangement or solely run by the Taliban, the government told the leaders of the political parties on Thursday.

New Delhi’s “top-most priority” at present is the evacuation of Indian citizens from Afghanistan, despite many challenges, including deteriorating security scenario around the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul and the difficulty in securing overflight clearances for the Indian Air Force aircraft, which have to avoid the airspace of Pakistan.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla briefed the leaders of all the political parties on India’s response to the situation in Afghanistan, where the Taliban militants marched into the national capital on August 15 after occupying many provinces in a swift blitz across the war-torn country – taking advantage of the withdrawal of troops by the US and its NATO allies.

India has a “strong national position” on Afghanistan, said Jaishankar, after he and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahlad Joshi had the meeting with the representatives of the 31 political parties. He added that the friendship with the people of Afghanistan was something that mattered to all in India.

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“We approached the situation very much in the spirit of national unity,” said the External Affairs Minister as he and Foreign Secretary told the leaders of the political parties that New Delhi was closely monitoring political and security developments in Afghanistan. They said that New Delhi would have to “wait and watch” and see how the new regime in Kabul would take shape – whether it would be solely a government of the Taliban or whether it would be born out of a power-sharing arrangement with leaders of Afghanistan. They said that the situation was quite fluid in Afghanistan and India was continuing consultations with important stakeholders and regional countries.

“Our strong friendship with the people of Afghanistan is reflected in the more than 500 projects we have there. This friendship will continue to guide us,” Jaishankar later posted on Twitter, but added: “India’s footprint and activities naturally keep in mind the ongoing changes (in Afghanistan).”

Ever since President Ashraf Ghani fled the country soon after the Taliban entered Kabul on August 15, his predecessor Hamid Karzai and the chief of the peace negotiation panel, Abdullah Abdullah, have been holding consultations with the leaders of the militant organization for forming an inclusive government.

New Delhi earlier signalled that it might consider recognising a new regime in Kabul with participation from the Taliban if it was an “inclusive dispensation” with the representation of all communities of Afghanistan, vowed to respect the aspirations of the children and voices and rights of women and promised not to allow anyone to use the country to export terror to other countries in the region and beyond.

Jaishankar and Shringla informed the leaders of the political parties that New Delhi so far evacuated 565 people from Afghanistan – including 175 personnel from the Embassy of India in Kabul, 263 other citizens of India, 15 citizens of other countries, 112 Afghans, including minority Hindus and Sikhs.

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