India on Wednesday issued a tacit warning about the danger of a policy of targeting the Islamic State in Afghanistan while making overtures to the Taliban to join peace talks, saying such an approach could erode the gains made in the war-torn country.
A policy of “zero tolerance towards violence and terrorism” and continued efforts to consolidate the Afghan government’s capacity to deal with violence and promote development are essential, defence minister Arun Jaitley said in Russia during a speech at the Moscow Conference on International Security.
Addressing an audience that included diplomats and leaders such as former Afghan president Hamid Karzai, Jaitley said: “Facile assessments that imply there is a choice between the evil forces at play in (Afghanistan) are endangering the gains made by the brave Afghan people with the support of the international community over the past decade and more.
“The recent condemnable and dastardly attack on the Afghan national security forces in Mazar-e-Sharif was a sharp reminder of this,” he said, referring to a Taliban assault on an army base that killed more than 140 people.
Russia, China and Pakistan are among countries advocating peace talks with the resurgent Taliban. These countries have also suggested such an approach is necessary to counter the IS. Afghan leaders, however, have expressed concern about these efforts.
Jaitley said India believes a “secure, stable and peaceful Afghanistan is achievable with the continued commitment” of the world community. India, which has provided aid and support to Afghanistan, looks forward to “working in tandem with all parties that share similar objectives in Afghanistan”, he added.
Without naming Pakistan, Jaitley called for all nations to “resolutely resist opportunistic efforts by some states to support terrorist proxies by training, funding or providing safe havens to such groups for their limited objectives”.
“Distinctions are still sought to be made between good and bad terrorists, despite all the evidence and experience to the contrary. Terrorism will recoil on those who nurture it,” he said.
Referring to the IS, he said several countries were challenging the territorial acquisitions made by the group in the Middle East. “However, even as we work to eliminate the breeding grounds of terrorism in West Asia, the dangers of such elements returning to their home countries have become a major challenge,” he added.
India, Jaitley said, supports an expanded role for its long-standing friend Russia in global affairs, “especially in our shared neighbourhood”. He also noted that India and Russia would soon negotiate a new armed forces training agreement and, later this year, hold the INDRA tri-services joint military exercises.
However, the “continued unpredictability in ties between major powers” has led to new uncertainties. “There are also worrying signs of economic protectionism. New barriers to migration and the closing of borders are other elements of such an approach,” Jaitley said.
In an apparent reference to the disputes in the South China Sea, Jaitley said India believes the “rights of freedom of navigation and over-flight as well as unimpeded commerce should be ensured”. These, he added, are vital to India’s economic engagement with the Indo-Pacific region.