External Affairs Minister (EAM) S. Jaishankar’s clarion call during his address to the UN Security Council on Tuesday marks a new pro-active phase in India’s global diplomacy on Afghanistan.
Jaishankar nailed the urgency for a holistic international approach to end the conflict by focusing on the umbilical link between terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In tune with Jaishankar’s call, National Security Adviser, Ajit Doval is heading for Dushanbe for a conference of the region’s security chiefs, under the umbrella of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), where the turbulent situation in Afghanistan is bound to be discussed.
Jaishankar during his address went for the jugular when he stressed that the supply chains of terrorism which end up in Afghanistan must be disrupted, for fostering “enduring” peace. “For enduring peace in Afghanistan, terrorist safe havens and sanctuaries must be dismantled immediately and terrorist supply chains disrupted. There needs to be zero tolerance for terrorism in all its forms and manifestations including its cross-border one,” he said in a veiled reference to Pakistan.
EAM Jaishankar drove home his point of a composite approach to end terrorism when he hammered his call for “double peace,” both within and across the border. “A durable peace in Afghanistan requires a genuine double peace. That is, peace within Afghanistan and peace around Afghanistan. It requires harmonising the interests of all, both within and around that country,” he said.
By calling out for a regional approach, Jaishankar was implicitly erasing Pakistan’s oft-quoted argument of dominating Afghanistan to acquire “strategic depth” against India. In India, there are deep and genuine concerns that Pakistan’s sway can once against turn Afghanistan into a ground zero from where global Jihad radiates across the globe, drawing Kashmir into the international terror orbit.
Unsurprisingly, Jaishankar spotlighted that, “It is equally important to ensure that the territory of Afghanistan is not used by terrorist groups to threaten or attack any other country. Those providing material and financial support to terrorist entities must be held accountable.”
India’s high decibel call for the world to act on the fundamentals and mechanics of terrorism threatening to re-permeate into Afghanistan is natural. India has invested over $3 billion since the Taliban’s exit in 2001, apart from substantially pitching in its political capital and soft-power reserves in a country, long known as a “graveyard of empires”.
Jaishankar pointed out that India remains committed to steadfastly supporting Afghanistan during its transition. Our development partnership, including more than 550 Community Development Projects covering all 34 provinces, is aimed at making Afghanistan a self-sustaining nation, he said.
Besides, India has recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Afghan government for building the Shatoot dam, which would provide safe drinking water to the residents of Kabul city, he observed.
The EAM asserted that landlocked Afghanistan must have access to high -seas-a reference to India’s participation with Afghanistan and Iran in the Chabahar port project. India has also built a strategic road linking Chabahar with Afghanistan’s road network.
But noting practical difficulties on the ground during transit, Jaishankar alerted the international community to work towards the removal of artificial transit barriers imposed on Afghanistan and ensure full transit rights guaranteed to Afghanistan under bilateral and multilateral transit agreements without any hindrance.
Jaishankar made two additional points. First, he called for an immediate ceasefire in Afghanistan.
Referring to last week’s report of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on the Afghan situation, Jaishankar stressed that the intra-Afghan talks have yielded a reduction in violence. On the contrary, after May 1, there have been targeted attacks on religious and ethnic minorities, girl students, Afghan security forces, Ulemas, women occupying positions of responsibility, journalists, civil rights activists and youth.
“It is therefore crucial that the international community and, in particular, this Council presses for a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire to ensure immediate reduction in violence and protection of civilian lives,” he observed.
CNN is quoting UN special envoy on Afghanistan Deborah Lyons as saying on Tuesday, that as the United States continues its military withdrawal from the country for May 1, 50 out of Afghanistan’s 370 districts have fallen to Taliban terrorists.
“The Taliban recent advances are even more significant and are as a result of an intensified military campaign; more than 50 of Afghanistan’s 370 districts have fallen since the beginning of May,” Lyons told the UNSC.
“Most districts that have been taken surround provincial capitals, suggesting that the Taliban are positioning themselves to try and take these capitals once foreign forces are fully withdrawn,” she added. Analysts say that instead of seeking a diplomatic solution, the Taliban appear to be pressing for a military solution, a throwback to the situation in 1996, when the Pak-backed group had overrun the country.
Second, Jaishankar pointed out that India fully supports the UN’s apex role in the conduct of international diplomacy to steer Afghanistan’s political transition.
“India welcomes any move towards a genuine political settlement and a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire in Afghanistan. We support a leading role for the United Nations, since that would help improve the odds for a lasting and durable outcome,” he said.
Jaishankar added that India has been supportive of all the efforts being made to accelerate the dialogue between the Afghan government and the Taliban, including the intra-Afghan negotiations.
The intra-Afghan outside the UN framework had kick-started after the US and the Taliban signed a landmark deal in Doha on February 29, 2020-a result of several rounds of negotiations. Before his UN address, Jaishankar had met US special representative on Afghanistan, Almay Khalilzad in Doha. The Qatari authorities have also confirmed that Indian delegates have met the Taliban in the group’s international office in Doha.