Jaishankar holds talks with Afghan President, affirms India’s support
A regional conference on connectivity hosted by Uzbekistan that began on Thursday afforded external affairs minister S Jaishankar an opportunity to discuss the situation in Afghanistan with key leaders such as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.
Jaishankar arrived in Tashkent after attending meetings of the foreign ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and the SCO Contact Group on Afghanistan in the Tajikistan capital of Dushanbe on July 13 and 14.
The situation in Afghanistan figured in Jaishankar’s meetings in Tashkent with Afghan President Ghani, his Kazakhstan counterpart Mukhtar Tileuberdi, and US deputy national security adviser Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall and Khalilzad, the special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation.
The meeting between Jaishankar and Ghani marked the first high-level contact between the Indian and Afghan sides amid a sustained campaign by the Taliban to capture territory following the rapid drawdown of US forces in Afghanistan.
“Discussed the current situation in and around Afghanistan. Reiterated our support for peace, stability and development of Afghanistan,”Jaishankar tweeted after his talks with the Afghan president. Tweets from the official handle of the Afghan president’s office said Jaishankar had assured Ghani of India’s support to Afghanistan. Jaishankar also said India will continue its humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan by providing 150,000 tonnes of wheat.
Jaishankar said India “would continue to work together to strengthen the regional consensus to support the regime in Afghanistan,” according to the tweets.
Jaishankar tweeted that he had exchanged “views on the evolving situation in Afghanistan” with Sherwood-Randall and Khalilzad. He also tweeted that he had discussed the situation in Afghanistan and Covid-19-related cooperation during his meeting with his Kazakh counterpart Tileuberdi. There was no official word from the external affairs ministry on these meetings.
The Indian foreign minister is expected to hold several bilateral meetings on the margins of the international conference being hosted with Uzbekistan with the theme “Central and South Asia: Regional connectivity, challenges and opportunities”. The meeting is being attended by key leaders such as Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi are also in Tashkent for the conference but people familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity that there were no plans for the Indian side to meet them. Meanwhile, the meeting of the SCO Contact Group on Afghanistan said in a joint statement that the “activity of international terrorist organisations remains a key factor of instability” in Afghanistan.