Afghanistan Situation Can Worsen Due to Humanitarian Crisis, Lack of Governance, India Has to Be Ready: Shringla

Foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla on Saturday said India has to be prepared to deal with any contingency that may arise out of a more volatile Afghanistan and that the situation in the neighbouring country could exacerbate due to the humanitarian crisis and a lack of governance. In an interactive session at the India Today Conclave, he also said India, like many other countries, is willing to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan.

“As far as humanitarian assistance is concerned, we, like many other members of the international community, have said that we separate what is in the welfare of the people of Afghanistan from the actions of the present dispensation in power,” the foreign secretary said. Explaining New Delhi’s security concerns following the developments in Afghanistan, he said India would like to do everything possible to ensure that the situation in the neighbouring country does not impact it adversely.

“We are already seeing some impact of some of this situation. Whether there is a direct linkage or not, we are not sure,” Shringla said without elaborating. “But there are concerns out there and we have to be able to use our instruments of diplomacy or every instrument available to us to ensure that we are insulated from the impact of such outcomes that could be detrimental to our interests,” he added.

The foreign secretary said India has to be prepared to deal with contingencies that may arise out of a more volatile Afghanistan and the situation could exacerbate due to the humanitarian crisis and a lack of governance. He said India will also have to guard against those forces that may want to use the situation to the detriment of others.

Shringla also mentioned the visit to Kabul by a top ISI official ahead of the government formation in Afghanistan. “We have seen the formation of a government that is far from inclusive and representative. We have seen the DG (director-general) of the ISI go there (Kabul) and facilitate a government that has 35 members of the cabinet who are designated individuals in the UN Security Council list,” he said.

“So that’s not a great start. We have to carefully see how the situation develops. The international community has significant leverages,” the foreign secretary added. To a question on India’s engagement with the Taliban, Shringla referred to Indian envoy to Qatar Deepak Mittal’s meeting with Taliban leader Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai in Doha in late August.

“We have got some reassurances and some sense of how they (the Taliban) would like to see our involvement. I think they were quite positive in terms of our continued engagement on the development front and in retaining our diplomatic presence but what is important also is that we need to watch carefully how the situation on the ground unfolds,” he said. Asked about the possibility of improvement in India’s ties with Pakistan, Shringla said unless the basic core issue of terrorism emanating from the neighbouring country is dealt with, “I think we will not see much forward movement in the relationship.”

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