New Delhi: For the first time in recent years, India on Tuesday said in a bilateral diplomatic statement that it will not support the return of the Taliban’s “Islamic emirate” in Afghanistan.
While it had been party to a unanimous UN Security Council resolution that also stressed the same point, India has not explicitly spelt it out in the current context in a bilateral setting. This is despite India’s obvious antipathy to the Taliban, whose strings, it believes, are pulled from across the border in Pakistan.
India remains the only major regional player that has not held talks with the insurgent group Taliban as part of the current peace process.
The latest remarks were made in a joint statement on Afghanistan issued after a meeting between external affairs minister S. Jaishankar and his EU counterpart, Josep Borell Fontelles, in London.
“They will not support the restoration of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, as stated in UNSC Resolution 2513,” it said. The “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” is the moniker used by the Taliban when they were in power from 1996 to 2001, which the insurgent group still utilises to refer to themselves.
The statement comes in the backdrop of the US starting the final phase of withdrawing foreign soldiers from Afghanistan on May 1. It is part of the 2020 peace deal signed between the US and the Taliban, which had also kicked off the intra-Afghan talks.
With the Doha talks stalled, the new Joe Biden administration has tried to inject new life in the process by suggesting a new series of talks between Taliban and Afghan political leadership in Istanbul. However, the proposed peace talks in Istanbul have been postponed, with the Taliban yet to give a clear answer on whether it will travel to Turkey. Meanwhile, Afghanistan continues to be wracked with terror attacks daily.
The international community had previously conveyed this warning to the Taliban to stop attempting to manipulate a return to the 1990s, beginning with the UN Security Council.
The Council’s unanimous resolution on March 10 had stressed that it “does not support the restoration of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”. India is currently a part of the Council as a non-permanent member.
On March 18, the extended “Troika’ meeting in Moscow – comprising of Russia, China, the US and Pakistan – had also underlined that it “does not support the restoration of the Islamic Emirate”.
Besides, India and the EU jointly called for an “immediate, permanent and comprehensive” ceasefire in Afghanistan, and said an effective and unconditional cessation of hostilities is essential for creating the appropriate conditions for the peace process in the country – an oft-repeated demand from the international community.
The two leaders agreed that “a successful peace process requires the Taliban to engage in good faith, with a serious commitment towards finding a political solution”.
The joint statement said both sides condemned in the strongest terms all terrorist activities and reaffirmed their strong commitment to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including its financing, the dismantling of terrorist infrastructures and countering radicalisation to ensure that Afghanistan is never again a safe haven for international terrorism.
Reaffirming that security in Afghanistan is intrinsically linked with security in the region, they underlined the “need for Afghanistan’s neighbours and regional stakeholders to be active and honest facilitators in promoting a lasting, stable and peaceful resolution of the conflict”.
They noted that any political settlement in Afghanistan must protect all Afghans’ human rights and fundamental freedoms, including women, youth and minorities, and build upon the economic, social, political and development gains achieved since 2001 under a democratic constitutional framework, the statement added.
(With PTI inputs)