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Afghan instability big regional worry. That’s the message Delhi NSA meet wants to send Taliban

Wednesday's meeting, to be chaired by NSA Ajit Doval, will be attended by security heads of Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan & Uzbekistan.

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New Delhi: The ‘Delhi Regional Security Dialogue’ that will be chaired by National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval on 10 November will give a “signal” to Kabul that the Taliban dispensation is a cause of concern not just for India, but for all countries neighbouring Afghanistan and in the same region, according to top-level sources.

The Delhi Regional Security Dialogue will see participation of the NSAs of Russia, Iran and the five Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Pakistan and China, however, will be absent. 

Pakistan hadn’t attended similar meetings hosted by Iran in 2018 and 2019. China did participate in the earlier meetings. India has said this time China will not be able to attend due to “scheduling issues”, but will keep in touch through diplomatic channels.

According to sources, in terms of the importance of the dialogue, the meeting will be a signal to Kabul that there remains a concern within all these countries on the sustainability of the Taliban dispensation, and that fears of a civil war breaking out there cannot be ruled out.

Sources also highlighted the fact that the situation in Afghanistan is still a “dynamic and changing situation” and that it is “not a static situation and extremely complex”. Hence, the concerns over instability of the interim government, breaking out of a civil war and “rise of radicalisation as well as cross-border terrorism” are some of the concerns that are common to all these countries.

The sources added that all countries that are attending the talks recognise the fact that “hot heads” in their respective countries will also get empowered the moment Taliban is legitimised, and that there will be an “export of ideology”. 

“Uncertainty is a big concern… The situation in Afghanistan is not black and white. There is also concern on what to give and how much to give (in terms of humanitarian aid),” a top-level source said. “We would all like to help, but how much of help should be given is also a major issue. Some actions can only be taken by the actors within Afghanistan.” 

Unlike the Moscow format of talks, the Heart of Asia or the SCO-Collective Security Treaty Organisation, all of which deal with the security situation in Afghanistan, the Delhi Regional Security Dialogue is “special” as it brings together the security heads of countries, and is not steered by their foreign ministries. 

“This is a special meeting of all the security czars… We have been quite engaged in the Afghan situation for the last three-four months, which is the reason why these countries want to come here and discuss the issues with us,” said the source.

The source also highlighted that all these countries’ NSAs who are coming to India, despite their busy schedules and their own challenges, are willing to engage with India as they see a “significant role” for New Delhi in this situation. 

“We have never put boots on the ground, never been part of their (Afghanistan’s) internal issues and thus countries want to sit with us and discuss matters with us,” the top-level source said. 

“And they know and realise that it is important to discuss these issues from Indian soil,” the source said, adding that while terrorism is one of the main concerns, all these eight countries are also hugely worried about drug production and drug trafficking in Afghanistan. 

Sources also said discussions will also be held on the “threat emanating from weapons left behind in Afghanistan by the international troops” and hence, the Delhi Regional Security Dialogue will seek to “agree upon the challenges and find some common ground by achieving consensus”. 

Apart from these issues, discussions will also focus on how to distribute humanitarian aid to Afghanistan for the benefit of the Afghan people, while ensuring that it does not fall in the wrong hands. 

“This time the Delhi Regional Security Dialogue will see what can be done on practical terms and what should be done in the future,” the source said. 

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Pakistan’s links in promoting terror in Afghanistan

According to sources, the fact that Pakistan is not attending the talks is a reflection of the fact that they are “not serious” about the issues facing Afghan people, and also the fact that Islamabad is providing “all sorts of resources” to the Taliban as well as the Haqqani Network, which New Delhi still considers as a terrorist organisation. 

The sources added that India wanted “quick access to Afghanistan” for distributing aid, but that could not fructify as Pakistan created hurdles and denied that access. 

“If they are so concerned about the people of Afghanistan, they should let aid flow through… Let Kabul hear and understand this when we discuss all these issues. So the message will go (about Pakistan). Taliban taking over is half the truth,” a source said. 

New Delhi also believes that there are links between the Islamic State Khorasan Province and Pakistan. Of late, Afghanistan has been witnessing massive violence, while Kabul has been rocked by multiple blasts. 

“It’s unfortunate that they (Pakistan) have chosen not to attend… There is a credibility gap between what they speak and their actions,” the source said. 

Sources also reiterated the fact that none of the countries who are participating in the talks have granted “recognition or legitimacy” to the Taliban dispensation in the Kabul, and they also realise the fact that the “there is not much difference” between the Taliban of the 1990s and those who took over Kabul on 15 August. 

While Iran, Russia and the Central Asian countries are engaging with the Taliban more frequently and deeply than India, New Delhi believes “it is not necessary to replicate their models as what we are doing has to correspond with our national interest”, the second source quoted above said. 

Russia also equally concerned 

While Russia has been engaging with the Taliban regularly, sources said, it also shares the same concerns as India, which is why President Vladimir Putin had called Prime Minister Narendra Modi post Taliban’s takeover. 

The second source said Moscow shares New Delhi’s concerns, which is evident from the fact that Russian Secretary of the Security Council General Nikolay Patrushev came to India in September, and held a bilateral meeting with NSA Doval. 

Wednesday’s meeting will see the participation of Ali Shamkhani, Secretary, Supreme National Security Council (Iran); Karim Massimov, Chairman of National Security Committee (Kazakhstan); Marat Mukanovich Imankulov, Secretary of the Security Council (Kyrgyzstan); Patrushev (Russia); Nasrullo Rahmatjon Mahmudzoda, Secretary of the Security Council (Tajikistan); Charymyrat Kakalyyevvich Amavov, Deputy Chairman of Cabinet of Ministers (Turkmenistan); and Victor Makhmudov, Secretary of the Security Council (Uzbekistan). They will also hold one-on-one meetings with Doval beginning Tuesday. 

While the security chief of Uzbekistan will visit Agra, his counterpart from Kazakhstan will visit Amritsar. 

“The high-level dialogue will review the security situation in the region arising from recent developments in Afghanistan. It will deliberate upon measures to address the relevant security challenges and support the people of Afghanistan in promoting peace, security and stability,” the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement. 

“India has traditionally enjoyed close and friendly ties with the people of Afghanistan and has called for a unified international response to address the security and humanitarian challenges facing Afghanistan. The forthcoming meeting is a step in that direction,” it added.

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)

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