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New Delhi: A day after the Taliban took over Afghanistan, India on Monday, August 16, called for an “inclusive dispensation” to broaden its “acceptability and legitimacy”. India also stated that if Afghan soil is not used to threaten another country, regional governments “would feel safer”.
India also referred to the fragile security situation in Kabul during the United Nations Security Council meeting on Afghanistan – the second one in 10 days. The last time the Council met was on August 6, when the Taliban had captured the first provincial capital, Zaranj, after the announcement of the total withdrawal of US troops.
In breathtaking speed, the Taliban entered Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, on Sunday, even as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his close aides left the country for Oman.
In Delhi, the ministry of external affairs spokesperson was the first to officially respond, but he didn’t comment on the political developments.
Instead, he commented on efforts to bring back Indian nationals from Afghanistan.
MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi specifically mentioned India was in “constant touch with the representatives of Afghan Sikh and Hindu communities”. “We will facilitate repatriation to India of those who wish to leave Afghanistan,” he added.
The NDA government has been repeatedly highlighting the fact that it raises the issues of Hindus and Sikh minorities in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It had also enacted the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act, which for the first time gave minority citizens of neighbouring countries a fast-track to Indian citizenship. However, the CAA is only applicable to those among the listed categories – non-Muslims from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan – who entered India before December 2014 and thus does not apply to Afghan Hindus and Sikhs who are still in Afghanistan or who came to India after the cut-off.
Bagchi also said that several Afghans had been India’s partners in mutual developmental, education, and people-to-people endeavours. “We will stand by them,” he added, without specifying whether New Delhi was looking at the grant of refugee status for the Muslims among them.
Noting that the commercial operations from Kabul airport have been suspended, the MEA official said that India was waiting for the resumption of flights to restart the process.
“The situation in Afghanistan is being monitored on a constant basis at high levels. The government will take all steps to ensure the safety and security of Indian nationals and our interests in Afghanistan,” he said.
India is currently evacuating its embassy staff, Indian nationals and selected Afghan citizens from Afghanistan.
A couple of hours later, India’s permanent representative to UN, T.S. Tirumurti, noted that there had been a dramatic change in the situation since the last meeting of the Security Council.
“We have also seen very unfortunate scenes at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. There is widespread panic among the people. Women and children are in distress. Incidents of firing have been reported from the city, including at the airport,” he said.
Ambassador Tirumurti claimed that Afghans were living under “a constant state of fear”.
“They are uncertain about their future. Everyone is concerned about the increasing violations of the fundamental rights of Afghan citizens. Afghans are worried about whether their right to live with dignity would be respected. There are many unanswered questions”.
In the first reference to Afghanistan’s political future, Tirumurti said, “We hope that the situation stabilises soon, and the parties concerned address the humanitarian and security issues. We also hope that there is an inclusive dispensation which represents all sections of Afghan society.”
Stating that the rights of women, children and minorities should be respected, he added that a “broader representation would help the arrangement gain more acceptability and legitimacy”.
Tirumurti also noted that there were a “few opportunities” amidst the challenges in the current situation in Afghanistan. “If there is a zero-tolerance for terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, and it is ensured that the territory of Afghanistan is not used by terrorist groups to threaten or attack any other country, then Afghanistan’s neighbours and the region would feel safer”.
Neither of the two statements made by Indian officials mentioned the Taliban by name.