Day before Jaishankar’s address, Oppn prepares for govt’s Afghan briefing
Former national security adviser Shivshankar Menon and former foreign secretary Shyam Saran joined the Congress’s discussions on the Afghanistan situation on Wednesday
The Congress on Wednesday held a high-level internal meeting where it consulted two former diplomats on the Afghanistan situation, a day before the Union government’s briefing on the issue. Other Opposition parties, too, were busy preparing background notes or holding discussions on the latest developments related to the Taliban’s grip on war-torn Afghanistan, people aware of the developments said.
Former national security adviser Shivshankar Menon and former foreign secretary Shyam Saran joined the Congress’s discussions on the Afghanistan situation on Wednesday. The virtual meeting chaired by Congress president Sonia Gandhi was also attended by former prime minister Manmohan Singh, party leaders Rahul Gandhi, leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, Anand Sharma and Congress’s Lok Sabha leader Adhir Chowdhury, among others.
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External affairs minister S Jaishankar will brief parliamentary floor leaders of various parties on the prevailing situation in Afghanistan at 11 am on Thursday after the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan fuelled chaos, protests and exodus from Kabul.
The Congress’s meeting went on for an hour and the party discussed 10 broad points ranging from the role of the Northern alliance to evacuation efforts to the stand against Taliban. Later, the party decided to restructure the 10 broad points into four-five specific issues on which the party leaders would seek the government’s reply.
HT’s request for comments to both Menon and Saran went unanswered.
The Trinamool Congress (TMC) has prepared a note based on inputs of former external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha, who joined the West Bengal’s ruling party earlier this year. TMC MP Derek O’Brien said, “We want to hear the government first. Our response should be based on what the government tells us at the meeting.” The party’s background note, accessed by HT, suggests the government should talk “openly and transparently” with Taliban and must extract assurance “that their land will not be used (to nurture terrorist groups and provide training to these outfits) to Indian delegations if there is a one-on-one meeting.”
The TMC’s note also suggests, “India should immediately open its embassy in Kabul and send back the ambassador. We must remember that the people of Afghanistan have great love for India. Pakistan is not popular with the people of Afghanistan.”
Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury held an internal briefing of the party on Wednesday. The party is likely to criticise the US, a usual policy for the communists, but ask the government on the security and strategy issues. “We are deeply concerned about the developments on Afghan soil,” said Yechury.
The last all-party meeting on Afghanistan was held 20 years ago, on October 30, 2001, after US forces launched an attack against the Taliban in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror strike. The upcoming meeting, organised by the parliamentary affairs ministry, underlines how history has turned a full circle on Afghan soil.
Both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha leaders of various parties have been invited for the meeting, which will see Jaishankar briefing the parties before answering their questions. It will be the first all-party parliamentary meeting on an external situation during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tenure.