High-level group focuses on India’s priorities in Afghanistan
A high-level group that includes external affairs minister S Jaishankar and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval is focusing on India’s priorities in Afghanistan, including the safe return of Indian nationals and ensuring Afghan soil isn’t used for terrorism against the country.
The group, which also includes senior officials from key ministries and organisations, was directed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to focus on India’s immediate priorities against the backdrop of the rapidly evolving situation in Afghanistan, people familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity.
The high-level group has been meeting regularly over the past few days, and among the key issues it is focusing on are the safe return of Indians still in Afghanistan, the travel of Afghan nationals, especially members of minorities such as Hindus and Sikhs, to India, and ensuring that the territory of Afghanistan is not used in any manner for terrorism directed against India, the people said.
The group is also monitoring the ground situation in Afghanistan, where the US completed the drawdown of its troops on Monday, and international reactions to the latest developments, including the resolution passed by the UN Security Council.
The external affairs minister acknowledged last week that at least 20 Indian nationals had missed a military evacuation flight from Kabul but didn’t give an exact figure for the number of Indians still in Afghanistan. External affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said the number changed as requests came in from Indians to be evacuated.
It is believed several dozen Indians are still in Afghanistan, down from about 1,500 late last month.
Another 140-odd Afghan Sikhs and Hindus were also barred by the Taliban from entering Kabul airport to take a military evacuation flight to New Delhi.
India has said it will stand by Afghans who had supported the country and those who are facing threats from the Taliban or fear persecution. As part of these efforts, the government introduced a new emergency e-visa regime though it is not clear how many visas have been issued under this arrangement.
On the security front, India has strong concerns about the reported presence in Afghanistan of up to 10,000 fighters from Pakistan-based terror groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. There are also concerns about the Haqqani Network, a key faction of the Taliban that has targeted Indian interests in the past and has close ties to Pakistan’s security establishment.
In a resolution adopted at the end of India’s presidency of the Security Council for the month of August, the United Nations Security Council demanded that Afghan soil shouldn’t be used to attack any country or to shelter terrorists.
Even as American forces completed their drawdown in Afghanistan a fortnight after the Taliban takeover, the UN’s highest body also reiterated the importance of combating terror in Afghanistan, including individuals and entities sanctioned under UN Resolution 1267 and pointed to the Taliban’s commitments in this regard.