With winter here and millions of Afghans in urgent need of humanitarian aid, National Security Advisors of eight countries, including India, expressed concern Wednesday over the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and said assistance should be provided in an “unimpeded, direct and assured manner”.
Participating in the Delhi Regional Security Dialogue on Afghanistan, chaired by NSA Ajit Doval, NSAs of Russia, Iran, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan underlined that Afghanistan’s territory should not be used for terrorist acts. They called for cooperation against radicalisation, extremism and drug trafficking.
They also sought an inclusive government in Afghanistan with representation from “major ethno-political forces”.
Doval said the situation there has “important implications not only for the people of Afghanistan, but also for its neighbours and the region”.
“This is the time for close consultation amongst us, greater cooperation and interaction and coordination among the regional countries,” he said.
“This is the third meeting of the process that was initiated by Iran in 2018. We had the second meeting there as well. We are grateful to Iran for that. It’s a privilege for India to host the dialogue today with participation of all the Central Asian countries and Russia which was the initiator of the idea,” he said.
The meeting was attended by Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani (Iran), Nikolai P Patrushev (Russia), Karim Massimov (Kazakhstan), Marat Mukanovich Imankulov (Kyrgyzstan), Nasrullo Rahmatjon Mahmudzoda (Tajikistan), Charymyrat Kakalyyevvich Amavov (Turkmenistan) and Victor Makhmudov (Uzbekistan).
They also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
On Afghanistan, Modi, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office, emphasised four aspects that countries in the region need to focus on: “The need for an inclusive government; a zero-tolerance stance about Afghan territory being used by terrorist groups; a strategy to counter trafficking of drugs and arms from Afghanistan; and addressing the increasingly critical humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.”
“Prime Minister also expressed the hope that the Regional Security Dialogue would work to revive Central Asia’s traditions of moderation and progressive culture, and counter extremist tendencies.”
In their comments to the Prime Minister, the senior security officers expressed their appreciation of India’s initiative in organising the dialogue and the quality of exchanges. “They also conveyed the perspectives of their respective countries on the Afghan situation,” the PMO said.
Pakistan and China decided to stay away from the Delhi meeting.
The Delhi Declaration adopted by the NSAs said the participants discussed the evolving situation in Afghanistan, especially the security situation and its regional and global ramifications.
They paid “special attention to the current political situation in Afghanistan and threats arising from terrorism, radicalisation and drug trafficking as well as the need for humanitarian assistance,” it stated.
There was agreement on a range of issues:
- They reiterated strong support for a peaceful, secure and stable Afghanistan while emphasising the respect for sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity and non-interference in its internal affairs.
- They expressed deep concern over the suffering of the people of Afghanistan arising from the security situation in Afghanistan and condemned the terrorist attacks in Kunduz, Kandahar and Kabul.
- They emphasised that Afghanistan’s territory should not be used for sheltering, training, planning or financing any terrorist acts.
- They condemned in the strongest terms all terrorist activities and reaffirmed their firm commitment to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including its financing, the dismantling of terrorist infrastructure and countering radicalization, to ensure that Afghanistan would never become a safe haven for global terrorism.
- They called for collective cooperation against the menace of radicalisation, extremism, separatism and drug trafficking in the region.
- They stressed the necessity of forming an open and truly inclusive government that represents the will of all the people of Afghanistan and has representation from all sections of their society, including major ethno-political forces in the country. Inclusion of all sections of the society in the administrative and political structure is imperative for the successful national reconciliation process in the country.
- Recalling the relevant UN Resolutions on Afghanistan, they noted that the United Nations has a central role to play in Afghanistan and that its continued presence in the country must be preserved.
- They emphasised the importance of ensuring that the fundamental rights of women, children and minority communities are not violated.
- They expressed concern over the deteriorating socio-economic and humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, and underlined the need to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan.
- They reiterated that humanitarian assistance should be provided in an unimpeded, direct and assured manner to Afghanistan and that the assistance is distributed within the country in a non-discriminatory manner across all sections of the Afghan society.
- They reiterated their commitment to provide assistance to Afghanistan to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
The NSAs reiterated the importance of their dialogue and agreed to remain engaged with each other in the future, and hold the next round of the security dialogue in 2022.
Official sources said the dialogue “exceeded our expectations”.
“The NSAs arrived at complete consensus, which enabled us to issue the joint Delhi Declaration. Every delegation was appreciative of the timing of the event and the opportunity to engage in frank and open discussions. Every country got the opportunity to put across their views in a forthright manner. This is the only dialogue at the level of NSAs and there was complete unanimity on the need to continue this process and have regular consultations,” a source said.
Later in the day, Doval had bilateral meetings with his counterparts from Russia, Kazakhstan and Iran. These meetings, the source said, were “substantive”.
Some of the focus issues discussed with Russia were future high-level exchanges, defence cooperation and deepening interaction between the NSCs, the source said.