‘India’s role key in ensuring stable and secure environment in Afghanistan’

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 humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people, Italian ambassador Vincenzo de Luca said
File photo: Ambassador of Italy to India Vincenzo de Luca pays tribute to poet Rabindra Nath Tagore during their visit to Tagore's ancestral house at Jorasanko Thakurbari in Kolkata on October 18, 2021. (PTI)
File photo: Ambassador of Italy to India Vincenzo de Luca pays tribute to poet Rabindra Nath Tagore during their visit to Tagore's ancestral house at Jorasanko Thakurbari in Kolkata on October 18, 2021. (PTI)
Updated on Oct 18, 2021 04:07 PM IST
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India has a key role as an important regional actor in ensuring a stable and secure environment in Afghanistan though responding to the humanitarian crisis in the war-torn country will require interacting with the Taliban, Italian ambassador Vincenzo de Luca has said.

De Luca said that such interactions with the Taliban would not be tantamount to recognition of the setup in Kabul, and the Taliban have to act on the call by the G20 states to rescind their links with terror groups and tackle the presence of terrorists on Afghan soil. In an interview, he also elaborated on the outcomes of the extraordinary G20 leaders meeting convened under the Italian presidency on October 12.

How does Italy as the president of the G20 plan to get in humanitarian assistance directly to the Afghan people before the onset of winter? What are the possible hurdles in the delivery of aid and its distribution in a non-discriminatory manner? What immediate steps are needed for aid to start flowing?

The sense of urgency with respect to a possible humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan was the reason why Italy decided to take action and convene a G20 extraordinary leaders’ meeting on Afghanistan.

In his closing remarks, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi underlined how the meeting confirmed a strong will to act immediately by the G20 countries, since the international community is dealing with a colossal humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.

In this scenario, the only way to ensure effective distribution of aid is through the role and the activity of the United Nations, which seem to have received a broad mandate to coordinate all the relief efforts directed at the Afghan people and to respond to the humanitarian emergency. The G20 leaders’ meeting expressed support for the United Nations to carry out this mandate, operating in accordance with internationally agreed humanitarian principles, to make sure that aid is delivered in an efficient and non-discriminatory way.

What role does Italy see for India in efforts to deliver this humanitarian assistance? Is there anything India should be doing to help the Afghan people ?

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 humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people.

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 in Afghanistan must be preserved.

Italy will also contribute through a consistent national financial pledge, on the one hand, and by supporting the European Union in the implementation of its relief initiatives, on the other hand. As far as the latter is concerned, the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen announced a 1 billion Euro support package for Afghanistan in the meeting.

The Indian PM has called for a unified response by the world community to ensure the desired change in the situation in Afghanistan but the absence of the top leaders of China and Russia at the G20 extraordinary summit suggests there are divisions on the approach towards Afghanistan. Your comments.

All G20 members were involved in the preparatory process of the leaders’ meeting. Chinese and Russian ministers attended the event on October 12 and both countries actively contributed to the virtual G20 foreign affairs ministers meeting on Afghanistan last September 22.

In the G20 leaders’ meeting, a consensus on some lines of action emerged: Firstly, the G20 will play an advocacy role within the international community to fully support UN activities and respond to UN appeals on humanitarian assistance.

Secondly, the G20 called on the Afghan authorities to ensure the safety, security, and freedom of movement of all UN and associated personnel throughout the country.

Thirdly, the G20 countries strongly called on the Taliban to rescind their links with terrorist groups and tackle their presence on Afghan soil.

G20 leaders have made it clear they will not recognise the Taliban and there is opposition to unfreezing the foreign assets of Afghanistan. Could this lead to the collapse of the economic and financial system in Afghanistan?

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 contact with the Taliban. This, however, will not entail their recognition.

At present, Afghanistan is also experiencing a crisis of the payment system and risks the collapse of its banking system. This issue must also 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. In this framework, the World Bank and the IMF will play a key role.

The G20 countries have called on the Taliban to rescind links with terrorist groups and tackle their presence on Afghan soil. What immediate steps by the Taliban would be seen as a suitable response to this call? How does Italy, as the president of the G20, view India’s position regarding Pakistan backing cross-border terror from Afghan soil?

As stated in Resolution 2593 adopted by the UN Security Council on August 30, there is 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 of the importance of combating terrorism in Afghanistan and of the fact that security, including counterterrorism, and development are intertwined. At the G20 leaders’ meeting, it was clearly reiterated that Afghanistan must not become a safe haven for terrorists and a threat to international security.

Are any steps being planned by the G20 to keep Kabul airport operational and for opening up other Afghan airports to facilitate the departure of foreign nationals and Afghan citizens who wish to leave? At the same time, are there concerns about an influx of Afghan refugees into Europe?

A preliminary condition for carrying out the humanitarian activities is that the Kabul airport remains open and in operation and our PM thanked Turkey and Qatar for their action toward this end. The same principles are reiterated in the Chair’s Summary of the meeting, whereby it is stated that the G20 fully supports current and future technical efforts to keep the Kabul international airport wholly operational and the future reopening of other Afghan airports to commercial flights.

Moreover, close cooperation with UN agencies and local authorities in the region should be pursued and substantial relief should be provided to migrants and refugees in these countries. The resilience of hosting communities should also be supported.

To relieve pressure on countries in the region, options of safe and legal pathways from these countries for Afghan refugees could be explored, in cooperation with the UNHCR.

What specific steps will be taken to ensure the human rights of the Afghans, especially women and minorities, and to preserve the gains of the past 20 years?

Participants in the G20 leaders’ meeting addressed a strong request to the Afghan authorities to respect human rights, with particular regard to women’s and minorities’ rights. The Taliban were also urged to fully respect their own commitment to allow the safe passage of those who wish to leave the country.

The issue of the human security of the Afghan people is at the core of the G20 concerns. The provision of public services, such as education and healthcare, and the fight against Covid-19 in Afghanistan will be addressed through all means available and within the United Nations framework of assistance.

The G20 members finally agreed that substantial relief should also be provided to Afghan migrants and refugees in neighbouring countries, especially for women and children.

In conclusion, in the Italian Prime Minister’s words, the virtual G20 leaders’ meeting on Afghanistan proved to be the first useful multilateral exercise for a common response to the Afghan crisis, with a particular focus on the humanitarian emergency.

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Sunday, November 28, 2021