India will stand by Afghans as it has in past: Jaishankar
New Delhi: India on Monday reiterated its commitment to stand by the people of Afghanistan and called for “non-discriminatory” and direct distribution of humanitarian assistance through the UN at a time when the war-torn country is going through a critical phase.
Addressing a high-level meeting on the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan convened by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, external affairs minister S Jaishankar underlined the need for humanitarian assistance providers to be given “unimpeded, unrestricted and direct access” to the country.
“Once relief materials reach that country, the world will naturally expect a non-discriminatory distribution of humanitarian assistance across all sections of the Afghan society. Only the United Nations has the capacity to monitor such endeavours and reassure donors,” Jaishankar said.
“Today, I wish to underline that in the face of a grave emerging situation, India is willing to stand by the Afghan people, just as in the past,” he added.
The world community must come together to create the “best possible enabling environment” for helping the Afghan people and addressing challenges such as efficient logistics in the current situation.
With no formal recognition yet of the interim setup created by the Taliban following their takeover of Afghanistan on August 15, India and other countries are reluctant to see aid being sent directly to the Taliban. Several nations have called for all aid to be routed through the UN and international bodies.
“As the picture becomes clear in respect of the legitimate concerns I am confident that the world will step forward and assist the Afghan people in their hour of need,” Jaishankar said without giving details. He noted that India has “consistently supported a central role” for the UN in the future of Afghanistan.
“A multilateral platform is always more effective than small groups in building global consensus and encouraging united action,” he said, adding that India, as an immediate neighbour, is monitoring developments in Afghanistan with “understandable concern”.
Jaishankar noted the issue of travel and safe passage “can emerge as an obstacle to humanitarian assistance” and should be “immediately sorted out”. He said: “Those who wish to travel into and out of Afghanistan should be granted such facilities without obstruction.
“The normalisation of regular commercial operations of Kabul airport would not only assist in that regard, but then become the basis for a regular flow of relief material.”
Jaishankar said UN Security Council resolution 2593, which was passed at a meeting held under India’s presidency of the body last month, should guide the world community’s approach towards Afghanistan in the coming days.
He also recalled India’s role as the largest regional donor for reconstruction and development efforts in Afghanistan, with pledges totalling $3 billion in recent years. India’s approach to Afghanistan has always been guided by its “historical friendship with its people” and this will continue to be the case, he said.
India’s contributions to the humanitarian requirements of Afghan society have included providing more than one million metric tonnes of wheat to Afghanistan over the past decade. Last year, India shipped 75,000 metric tonnes of wheat to Afghanistan via Iran’s Chabahar port.
India’s efforts are also reflected in some 500 development projects in all 34 provinces of Afghanistan in critical areas such as power, water supply, road connectivity, healthcare, education, agriculture and capacity-building.