Helping Afghanistan

CHANGING its tone a bit towards Taliban controlled Afghanistan, India has expressed its readiness to engage with the war-torn country. Speaking at a UN meeting on Monday, External affairs minister S Jaishankar made it clear that India is ready to send humanitarian aid to Afghan people as in the past but it should have unrestricted access and the aid should be distributed to all sections of society. He said India had always stood and would stand with Afghan people but humanitarian aid should be unfettered. Over the last twenty years, India has undertaken development projects in all 34 provinces of the country. These projects are in critical areas of power, water supply, road connectivity, healthcare, education, agriculture and capacity building. The country invested $3 billion for the welfare of the people of Afghanistan. Earlier, India in a joint statement with Australia Sunday acknowledged that the group holds “positions of power and authority across Afghanistan”.

Taliban takeover has also markedly shifted the geopolitics across the Southasian region and beyond. This weekend, Saudi Arabian foreign minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud is expected to visit India to discuss the unfolding situation in Afghanistan. Qatar, on the other hand, has taken the lead in engaging Kabul, a step towards legitimising the Taliban. Pakistan is busy creating a regional consensus about the Taliban. A few days back, Pakistan hosted a meeting of spymasters of Russia, China, Iran and some Central Asian states. in the region of the situation in Afghanis­tan.

At the same time, there is pressure on Pakistan to not to rush to recognize the Taliban and support international efforts to get the Taliban to honour rights of women and minorities. On Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee that Washington wants Pakistan to deny legitimacy to the Afghan Taliban unless they meet international demands. He said the US priorities included that the Taliban allow people who want to leave Afghanistan and respect the rights of women and minorities, as well as fulfil the promises that the country not again become “a haven for outward-directed terror”.

Meanwhile, the Taliban has further strengthened hold over the country by quelling the last frontier of resistance at Panjshir. This has made the Taliban rule in Afghanistan a stark reality with which the world has to engage sooner than later, a point that foreign minister Jaishankar has stressed. The country scarred by forty years of war is in desperate need for humanitarian aid. So, the world, including India has little choice to take the Taliban on its word to act as a more moderate version of its first avatar.

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