Amid continuing uncertainty about Afghanistan’s political future, India has sent a strong message that its support for a politically legitimate government in Afghanistan is unwavering and underlined that New Delhi will never agree to treating the Afghan government with member of the former Taliban regime.
“Treating the government of Afghanistan on par with elements of the erstwhile Taliban regime is something we will never endorse,” said Ambassador Bhagwant Singh Bishnoi, the acting Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations, at a Security Council debate on the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
He reiterated India’s established position that the on-going reconciliation process must remain “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled” while respecting the “agreed red lines”.
Three “red line” were established during the Bonn Conference in 2011, which lays down criteria and minimum standards which must be met when negotiating with the Taliban. These include forsaking violence, cutting ties with Al Qaeda and abiding by the Afghan Constitution.
The issue of talking with the Taliban is of considerable significance given the political transition in Afghanistan, set to take place on August 2. Mr. Bishnoi expressed India’s “full support to the political, social and economic transition that is taking place”.
India has a huge stake in a prosperous and independent Afghanistan, he said, adding that given the centuries-old civilizational linkages, New Delhi does not believe in an “exit strategy”.
India has pledged over $2 billion for multifarious reconstruction projects in Afghanistan that encompass infrastructural projects, like building the parliament, dams, roads and highways, hospitals and schools. These projects have spawned enormous goodwill among the Afghan people.
Afghanistan has repeatedly requested India to be more economically and politically invested in the country. Sensitive to Pakistan’s security concerns, India has repeatedly declined Afghanistan’s appeal for military aid, and has focused instead on providing Afghanistan economic and developmental aid.
Bishnoi added that while the world’s focus has been on the security and political transitions in Afghanistan, attention should not be diverted from the “equally important” issue of economic development in the country.
However, he recalled the the May 23 terror attack on the Indian Consulate in Herat was “grim reminder that terrorism, not ethnicity or tribal differences, is the greatest threat to peace and stability in Afghanistan and the chances of the Afghan people attaining a path of self-sustained economic growth and prosperity”.
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