‘India wasn’t fully in the loop on US-Taliban deal’: Jaishankar explains concerns
External affairs minister S Jaishankar said the Quad was a grouping that brings together four countries should not be perceived as “some kind of ganging up” against China.
New Delhi: India was not taken into confidence on all aspects of the deal signed by the US and the Taliban last year and it still isn’t clear whether Afghanistan will have an inclusive government or whether Afghan soil will not be used for terror, external affairs minister S Jaishankar said on Thursday.
These issues have given rise to justified concerns in India and other countries about the situation in Afghanistan, he said while speaking virtually at the annual leadership summit of the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF).
Jaishankar described the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or Quad as a grouping that brings together four countries with shared values and a shared vision for the Indo-Pacific, and said it should not be perceived as “some kind of ganging up” against China.
Participating in a conversation with former American ambassador Frank Wisner, Jaishankar responded to a question about the threat from recent developments in Afghanistan by saying: “I think to some degree, we’ll all be justified in having levels of concern. And to some degree, the jury is still out.
“When I say levels of concern, there were commitments which were made by the Taliban at Doha...The US knows that best, we were not taken into confidence on various aspects of that.”
He added, “So, whatever were the deals which were struck in Doha – one has a broad sense but beyond that, are we going to see an inclusive government, are we going to see respect for the rights of women, children and minorities? Most important, are we going to see an Afghanistan whose soil is not used for terrorism against other states and the rest of the world?”
The concerns of India and other countries were captured by the UN Security Council resolution 2593, which was adopted in August, though it remained to be seen how these worries would be addressed, Jaishankar said. India will take its time and study the matter because many of the understandings reached by the US and the Taliban “are not known to the entire international community”, he added.
India’s concerns related to Afghanistan were discussed when Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently met US President Joe Biden in Washington and both countries “are on similar pages at a principal level on many of these issues”.
He said: “We have been victims of cross-border terrorism from that region and...that has shaped in many ways our view of some of the neighbours of Afghanistan. How much the US shares that view and where is it that the US makes its tactical compromises, that is for the Americans to figure out.”
Jaishankar also said India and the US share some aspects of their assessment of Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan, while there were also aspects “where maybe our positions are not exactly the same”.
He described the Quad, which recently held its first in-person leaders’ summit in Washington, as four countries with shared interests and common values that have a high degree of comfort in working together on immediate and long-term concerns in the Indo-Pacific. In the past, these concerns included maritime security, humanitarian aid and military exercises, but the Quad has now moved towards addressing new issues such as Covid-19 vaccines, and principles for design, development, governance and use of technology, and semiconductor supply chains.
“The beauty of Quad is precisely because it is not rigid, it is not formal, it’s very comfortable and easy-going. The agenda is made up responding to the requirements of the times,” Jaishankar said.
He made it clear that the Quad “is for things, it’s not against somebody”. The grouping works for rule of law, democratic values, freedom of overflight, peaceful resolution of disputes and territorial integrity of states.
“I think it’s very important not to be railroaded into some kind of negative discourse which actually is not from our script, it is somebody else’s script,” he said, adding that the members of Quad – India, Australia, Japan and the US – have the fundamental right to cooperate with partners, and “others should not have a veto on our choices”.
Jaishankar indicated the Quad shouldn’t be seen as an anti-China grouping. “The rise of China has had a fundamental impact on the international order. So participants in the international order...need to assess that and respond to that in the light of our own interests. It’s essential to normalise this conversation – this should not end up as though it’s some kind of ganging up and a negatively driven event,” he said.