New Delhi: Starting Monday, counterterrorism teams from India and Pakistan and other members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) will be involved in a major huddle of sorts to thrash out anti-terror measures under the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure, or RATS, particularly to discuss the security situation in Afghanistan, ThePrint has learnt.
The RATS is a permanent body under the SCO based out of Tashkent, Uzbekistan. It is aimed at promoting cooperation of member states against terrorism, separatism, and extremism. The Chairmanship of SCO is by rotation for a year between member states. India is currently chairing the executive council.
Islamabad’s decision to send a three-member delegation to India assumes importance this time because this is the first such government delegation that will be visiting the country after a new government under Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif took over last month.
India is expecting that all sides will discuss issues concerning the security situation in Afghanistan at the meeting as the Taliban has escalated violence there and there are growing among regional countries of terrorism emanating from there and also rise in drug trafficking, sources told ThePrint.
Sources said during this meeting the discussions will be based on what Prime Minister Narendra Modi had enunciated in his address to SCO-CSTO Outreach Summit on Afghanistan that took place on 17 September, 2021.
Modi had stressed at that meeting that “instability and fundamentalism persist in Afghanistan, it will encourage terrorist and extremist ideologies all over the world”.
“Other extremist groups may also be encouraged to come to power through violence,” he said at the summit last year, thus asking SCO-RATS to play a role in monitoring these developments and sharing of information.
Under SCO there is a certain SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group too which was established in 2018.
In March, the Director of SCO RATS Mirzaev Ruslan Erkinovich had visited India and held talks with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Minister of State for Ministry of External Affairs Meenakashi Lekhi and BSF Chief.
Pakistan, US talk Afghanistan
According to sources, India is closely watching the recent developments taking place between the US and Pakistan as they begin to once again jointly focus on Afghanistan as the situation there deteriorates.
While India is not directly dealing with Pakistan when it comes to the security situation in Afghanistan, it hope to gather inputs from the US, said sources, adding that such a move will be key for New Delhi to take a call on the “next steps” in Afghanistan since it closed its Embassy there following the Taliban takeover.
India is also not speaking to the Taliban in Kabul directly but has a channel of dialogue opened through their office in Doha, Qatar.
Earlier this month, Pakistan’s Director-General of Inter-Services Intelligence (DG ISI) Lt-Gen Nadeem Anjum had visited Washington in an effort to mend ties with the Joe Biden-administration post the Imran Khan saga. The objective of his visit was to also discuss the situation in Afghanistan. During the visit he reportedly met US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and CIA Director William J. Burns.
Monday, Pakistan’s new foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto is expected to embark on a visit to the US to meet his counterpart Antony J. Blinken.
Blinken had called Bhutto last week and told spoke about stability in Afghanistan and the need for combatting terrorism.
“The Secretary underscored the resolute US-Pakistan commitment to Afghan stability and combatting terrorism,” said Ned Price, Spokesperson, US State Department
Meanwhile, head of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, said the US maintains surveillance in Afghanistan and has the capability to conduct strike operations if “we see a threat emanating from the land of Afghanistan”.
(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)