Global community must ensure Afghan soil is not used for terrorism: Modi at SCO-CSTO meet

India has watched warily since the Taliban took over Afghanistan on August 15 following the collapse of the Ashraf Ghani government. The establishment of a hardline setup by the Taliban that includes several key members of the Haqqani Network and the presence in Afghanistan of thousands of fighters from groups such as LeT and JeM are among India’s key security concerns.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses SCO-CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) summit outreach on Afghanistan, through video conferencing in New Delhi on Friday. (ANI PHOTO.)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses SCO-CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) summit outreach on Afghanistan, through video conferencing in New Delhi on Friday. (ANI PHOTO.)
Published on Sep 17, 2021 08:07 PM IST
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The world community must decide collectively on recognising the new setup in Kabul in view of questions about its legitimacy because the change of power in Afghanistan was “not inclusive” and done “without negotiation”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday.

In his virtual address to a joint meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) that was convened in Dushanbe to discuss the situation in Afghanistan, Modi said the international community must ensure Afghan soil is not used to spread terrorism.

He called on SCO members to develop “strict and common norms” based on the principle of zero tolerance towards terror to counter any terrorism emanating from Afghanistan’s territory. The norms should include a code of conduct to prevent cross-border terror and terror financing and a system for their enforcement, he added.

Earlier in the day, Modi said in a virtual address to the SCO Summit, Modi said the developments in Afghanistan had highlighted challenges faced by the region, including the impact of growing radicalisation on peace and security.

India has watched warily since the Taliban took over Afghanistan on August 15 following the collapse of the Ashraf Ghani government. The establishment of a hardline setup by the Taliban that includes several key members of the Haqqani Network and the presence in Afghanistan of thousands of fighters from Pakistan-based groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) are among India’s key security concerns.

Along with its partners, India has called for the creation of an inclusive government in Afghanistan that protects the rights of women and minorities. India has also insisted Afghan soil must not be used to plan or carry out terror attacks against other countries. Modi reiterated these concerns in his address to the SCO-CSTO meeting.

Modi listed four issues that he said should be the focus of regional cooperation on Afghanistan – the new system put in place in Kabul, the spread of terrorist and extremist ideologies if instability continues in Afghanistan, the possibility of the uncontrolled flow of drugs, illegal weapons and human trafficking, and the serious humanitarian crisis in the war-torn country.

He said that the “change of power in Afghanistan was not inclusive and has taken place without negotiation”, and that this raises “questions about the acceptability of the new system”. The representation of all sections of Afghan society, including women and minorities, is important, he said.

“Therefore, it is essential that the world community decides on the recognition of the new system in a thoughtful and collective manner. India supports the central role of the UN on this issue,” Modi said, speaking in Hindi.

Modi warned that continued “instability and fundamentalism” in Afghanistan would lead to the spread of terrorist and extremist ideologies around the world, and that “other extremist groups may be encouraged to seek power through violence”.

All countries must work together to ensure that Afghan soil isn’t used to spread terrorism in any country, and SCO members should develop “strict and common norms” on this issue based on zero tolerance for terrorism, he said. These norms, which should include a code of conduct to prevent cross-border terror and terror financing, could become a template for global anti-terror cooperation.

SCO’s Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) mechanism can help monitor any flow of drugs, illegal weapons and human trafficking from Afghanistan. “A large amount of advanced weapons remain in Afghanistan. Due to these, there will be a risk of instability in the entire region,” Modi said.

“From this month, India is presiding over the council of [RATS]. We have developed proposals for practical cooperation on this topic,” he said.

All countries must work together to ensure humanitarian aid reaches Afghanistan, which is facing a serious humanitarian crisis, Modi said. People have been hit by the interruption of financial and trade flows and the Covid-19 pandemic, and India stands ready to deliver food and medicines to “our Afghan friends”, he added.

In his address to the SCO Summit, Modi also said the grouping should develop a joint approach to fight radicalisation and extremism, and called for developing a network between moderate, tolerant and inclusive Islamic institutions in the member states.

“The 20th anniversary of SCO is a suitable occasion to think about the future of the SCO. I believe the biggest challenges in this region are related to peace, security and trust deficit and the root cause of these problems is increasing radicalisation,” Modi said, speaking in Hindi.

“Recent developments in Afghanistan have made this challenge more apparent. The SCO should take an initiative on this issue,” he said, recalling Central Asia’s historic role as a “bastion of moderate and progressive cultures and values”.

Modi also welcomed Iran as a new member state of SCO, and Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Qatar as new dialogue partners, saying the expansion reflects the grouping’s growing influence.

The current members of SCO are China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan. Afghanistan, Belarus and Mongolia have observer status with SCO, while dialogue partners include Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Turkey.

Modi addressed both the meetings in Dushanbe virtually while external affairs minister S Jaishankar participated in person and held meetings with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi, Iran’s foreign minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov. Jaishankar also held talks with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Tajik President Emomali Rahmon and with his counterparts from Armenia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2021