New Delhi: On Tuesday, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar met his Afghan counterpart Mohammad Haneef Atmar, who briefed him on the situation in the war-torn country amid growing security concerns as the Taliban have seized control of a number of areas, forcing many countries to reduce their presence. There was no official readout of the meeting between Jaishankar and Atmar from the Indian side, but an official release said they discussed their shared efforts and cooperation to combat terrorism and establish lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region.
Jaishankar arrived Tuesday for a two-day visit to the Tajik capital to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Council of Foreign Ministers meetings on Afghanistan. Both meetings will discuss the deteriorating security situation caused by the rapid withdrawal of US forces from the country. ‘My Dushanbe visit began with a meeting with Afghan Foreign Minister @MHaneefAtmar. I was grateful for his take on recent developments, and I look forward to tomorrow’s meeting of the SCO Contact Group on Afghanistan,’ Jaishankar tweeted.
According to the release, Atmar discussed the political and security situation in Afghanistan, the outcome of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s recent visit to Washington DC, and the United States’ continued support and cooperation with Afghanistan. Furthermore, it said that Atmar, while referring to the Taliban’s escalation of attacks in collusion with foreign fighters and regional and international terrorist networks against civilians and the Afghan defense forces, noted that overcoming this common threat is vital to regional security.
According to Atmar, India has played an important role in strengthening regional consensus on the Afghan peace process and in preserving the achievements of the last two decades.
Jaishankar expressed concern over the escalation of violence and stressed the need for an end to bloodshed in Afghanistan, the release added, and he assured Atmar of India’s continued cooperation in building a regional and global consensus for a political settlement there.
The Indian government supports a national peace and reconciliation process which is Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled.
A joint meeting of India’s foreign ministers comes days after India evacuated its consulate in Kandahar by an aircraft following intense fighting between Afghan forces and Taliban militants.
Indian officials noted that the government was closely monitoring the situation, and the consulates in Kandahar and Mazar-i-Sharif remain operational.
Afghanistan’s envoy to India Farid Mamundzay earlier in the day said the Indian consulate general in Kandahar remains open and continues to operate through local staff.
‘The temporary measure to return diplomats to India was brought about by safety and security concerns. India firmly believes in a peaceful, sovereign and stable Afghanistan for a long time,’ he said.
Security concerns have led several countries, including China and France, to ask their nationals to leave Afghanistan.
Several countries have also sent home non-essential personnel from their diplomatic missions in Kabul and warned their citizens against going to Afghanistan.
The SCO contact group meeting on Afghanistan assumes particular significance because it comes amid growing global concerns about Taliban fighters rapidly seizing control of large areas in Afghanistan.
Several terrorist attacks have been carried out in Afghanistan in recent weeks as the US prepares to withdraw its forces by the end of August, ending almost two decades of military presence in the war-torn country. As one of the major stakeholders in the peace and stability of Afghanistan, India has already invested nearly USD 3 billion in its aid and reconstruction.
The SCO has emerged as one of the world’s largest transregional international organizations as a counterweight to NATO and other major transnational institutions.
The SCO was established at a summit in Shanghai in 2001 by the presidents of Russia, China, Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.