New Delhi: The Regional Security Dialogue on Afghanistan, which will be hosted here by National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval on 10 November, will not be attended by Pakistan, a move India has called “unfortunate but not surprising”.
This is the third round of this format of talks, aimed at discussing Afghanistan’s security situation. The previous two rounds were held in Iran in September 2018 and December 2019. The third meeting in India could not be held due to the Covid pandemic.
Meanwhile, the situation in Afghanistan changed completely as the Taliban gained control of Kabul on 15 August before the US and other international troops could withdraw from there.
Invitations to attend the 10 November meeting were sent by the Narendra Modi government to Pakistan, China, Russia, Iran, and to all the five Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, in October.
However, earlier this week Pakistan’s NSA Moeed Yusuf said he would not attend the meeting even as he called India a “spoiler” who “cannot play the role of peacemaker”.
According to official sources, Pakistan’s decision to not attend the crucial talks is “unfortunate, but not surprising” as “it reflects its mindset of viewing Afghanistan as its protectorate”.
Sources also said that “Pakistan has not attended the previous meetings of this format. Its media comments against India are an unsuccessful attempt to deflect attention from its pernicious role in Afghanistan”.
A response from China is awaited.
Sources also highlighted that “there has been an overwhelming response to India’s invitation” even as all the Central Asian countries, Russia and Iran have confirmed participation.
‘Widespread and growing concern about situation in Afghanistan’
This is the first time that all Central Asian countries, and not just Afghanistan’s immediate land neighbours, are participating in this format.
The sources said that participation by these countries indicated “a manifestation of the importance attached to India’s role in regional efforts to promote peace and security in Afghanistan”.
The meeting, which will be chaired by Doval, reflects the “widespread and growing concern of regional countries about the situation in Afghanistan and their desire to consult and coordinate with each other. India has an important role to play in this process,” sources underlined.
ThePrint had reported that the reason why Pakistan rejected the invitation is because it wanted Afghanistan to be represented in the meeting by a member of the Taliban government.
Last month India was part of a meeting hosted by Russia on Afghanistan, which was attended by China, Pakistan, Iran, and the five Central Asian nations. In that meeting, Kabul was represented by a big Taliban delegation led by their interim government’s Deputy Prime Minister Mullah Abdul Salam Hanafi and it also included their Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi and Haqqani Network’s influential leader Anas Haqqani, among others.
In that meeting, India spoke to the Taliban leaders and promised to grant humanitarian assistance and aid for common Afghans. However, how the aid will be delivered and distributed could not be finalised there.
The security situation in Afghanistan is rapidly deteriorating. Earlier this week, the Afghan capital of Kabul was rocked by two deadly blasts in which many were killed and several injured. Prior to that, dozens of people were killed at a mosque in Kunduz after a suicide bombing.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)