Afghanistan’s security situation dominates SCO meeting in Dushanbe
Before the meeting, the foreign ministers of SCO states called on Tajik President Emomali Rahmon. A meeting of the SCO Contact Group on Afghanistan at the ministerial level will follow the meeting of the foreign ministers
India on Wednesday called on members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) to act against terrorism and terror financing during a meeting in the Tajikistan capital that was dominated by the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan.
External affairs minister S Jaishankar raised these issues when he joined his counterparts from the SCO states – China, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – for the meeting in Dushanbe. The meeting is also being attended by representatives from countries with observer status with SCO, including Afghan foreign minister Haneef Atmar.
“Afghanistan, public health and economic recovery are pressing issues. Combating terrorism and extremism is the key purpose of SCO. Must stop terror financing and deter digital facilitation,” Jaishankar tweeted after addressing the meeting.
Jaishankar also welcomed the meeting of the SCO Contact Group on Afghanistan later in the day, and urged the need for early universal vaccination against Covid-19. He also spoke on reformed multilateralism.
The meeting in the 20th year of the existence of SCO is “an opportune time to reflect on achievements & deliberate on challenges”, he said in a tweet before the meet.
Before the meeting, the foreign ministers of SCO states called on Tajik President Emomali Rahmon.
Shortly after arriving in Dushanbe on Tuesday, Jaishankar met Atmar and discussed the latest developments in Afghanistan and cooperation in the fight against terrorism and for establishing peace and stability in the region.
The meeting provided an opportunity for the two sides to compare notes on developments in Afghanistan, especially the security situation, amid the rapid drawdown of US and foreign forces and the Taliban’s violent campaign to capture territory.
The Afghan foreign ministry said in a statement that Atmar and Jaishankar discussed the political and security situation, the peace process, and “India’s cooperation with Afghanistan in various fields, including the joint fight against terrorism and the establishment of lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region”.
Atmar referred to the escalation of Taliban attacks on civilians and Afghan forces in “collusion with foreign fighters and regional and international terrorist networks”, and said that “overcoming this common threat was of vital importance to regional security”.
He underscored India’s constructive role in strengthening regional consensus on the Afghan peace process and preserving the achievements of the past two decades.
Jaishankar expressed concern at the escalation of violence and stressed the need to end bloodshed in Afghanistan, the statement said. He assured Atmar of India’s continued cooperation in “strengthening regional and global consensus to achieve a political settlement in Afghanistan”.
In a separate meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Atmar described the “presence of foreign fighters and regional and international terrorist networks alongside the Taliban” as a major threat to the region.
Atmar emphasised the need for “practical cooperation between regional countries, particularly Pakistan, in closing shelters and ceasing funding sources of the Taliban, and encouraging the group to resume meaningful talks and find a political solution”.
The Taliban have stepped up attacks on rural areas of numerous provinces, especially in northern Afghanistan, and taken control of key border crossings and regions bordering Iran, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. The violence has coincided with the US saying it has completed 90% of the withdrawal of its troops and that the process will be completed by August 31.
India has repeatedly expressed concern at the spike in violence across Afghanistan and called for a comprehensive ceasefire while efforts continue to find a political settlement. Jaishankar has also asserted the need for having a legitimate government in Kabul amid fears that the Taliban will try to capture power by force.
New Delhi pulled out all its diplomats, staffers and security personnel from its consulate in Kandahar over the weekend after fierce clashes erupted between the Taliban and security forces in and around the southern Afghan city.