India is key to a safe and secure Afghanistan: Italy

G20 president Italy believes India has a key role as an important regional actor in ensuring a stable and secure environment in Afghanistan, and both countries are of the view that the Afghan people need immediate and unhindered access to humanitarian aid
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Published on Oct 19, 2021 12:10 AM IST
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G20 president Italy believes India has a key role as an important regional actor in ensuring a stable and secure environment in Afghanistan, and both countries are of the view that the Afghan people need immediate and unhindered access to humanitarian aid.

While any action in tackling the humanitarian crisis and preventing an economic collapse in Afghanistan will require interacting with the Taliban, such contacts wouldn’t be tantamount to recognition of the group, Italian ambassador Vincenzo de Luca said in an interview.

Speaking on the outcomes of the extraordinary meeting of G20 leaders on Afghanistan convened by Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi on October 12, de Luca said his country decided to act because of a “sense of urgency with respect to a possible humanitarian catastrophe” in the war-torn country.

“Being an important regional actor, India’s involvement in consultation and coordination activities is key to ensure a stable and secure environment and effective initiatives aimed at the humanitarian assistance to Afghan people,” he said. “Italy and India share the view that Afghanistan needs immediate and unhindered access to humanitarian assistance. To this end, the continued presence of the United Nations (UN) in Afghanistan must be preserved.”

Italy will contribute through a “consistent national financial pledge” and also back initiatives by the European Union (EU), which announced a one billion euro support package for Afghanistan at the October 12 meeting.

Asked about G20 leaders making it clear that they will not recognise the Taliban and the opposition to unfreezing Afghanistan’s foreign assets, de Luca said, “Any action in tackling the current situation in Afghanistan would require interacting with the Taliban. If we want to respond to the humanitarian crisis effectively and to prevent the economic collapse of the country, there is no alternative to having contacts with the Taliban. This, however, will not entail their recognition.”

Afghanistan has also been hit by a “crisis of the payment system and risks the collapse of its banking system”, and this must be “urgently addressed because if money doesn’t flow and payments cannot be done, the entire economy of the country might crumble, making any sort of assistance nearly impossible”, he added.

The ambassador pointed to the UN’s central role in ensuring the effective distribution of aid, and said the world body has received a broad mandate to coordinate all relief efforts directed at the Afghan people. The G20 leaders’ meeting expressed support for the UN to carry out this mandate to “make sure that aid is delivered in an efficient and non-discriminatory way”.

On the issue of the Taliban delivering on counter-terrorism commitments, de Luca pointed to the UN Security Council resolution 2593, which was adopted on August 30 while India held the rotating presidency of the body, and said the document contained a “strong expectation that the Afghan territory is not used to threaten or attack any country or to shelter or train terrorists, or to plan or to finance terrorist acts”.

“There is a common understanding on the importance of combating terrorism in Afghanistan and on the fact that security, including counter-terrorism, and development are intertwined,” he said. “At the G20 leaders’ meeting it was clearly reiterated that Afghanistan must not become a safe haven for terrorists and a threat for international security.”

During the G20 leaders’ meeting, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for a unified response by the world community to ensure desired change in the situation in Afghanistan. However, the Chinese and Russian presidents skipped the meeting; the two countries were represented by their foreign ministers.

Asked if the absence of the top leaders of China and Russia at the summit suggested there were divisions on the approach to Afghanistan, de Luca sought to play down the matter and said all G20 members were involved in the preparatory process for the leaders’ meeting and both China and Russia actively contributed to the virtual G20 foreign ministers’ meeting on Afghanistan on September 22.

The G20 leaders’ meeting led to “consensus on some lines of action”, he said. This included the G20 playing an “advocacy role” within the world community to fully support UN activities, the G20 calling on “Afghan authorities to ensure the safety, security, and freedom of movement of all UN and associated personnel”, and the G20 states calling on the “Taliban to rescind their links with terrorist groups and tackle their presence on Afghan soil”.

The G20 leaders’ meeting made a strong request to Afghan authorities to “respect human rights, with particular regard to women’s and minorities’ rights”, de Luca said. “The Taliban were also urged to fully respect their own commitment to allow the safe passage of those who wish to leave the country,” he added.

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