Future of Afghanistan cannot be its past: Jaishankar

Future of Afghanistan cannot be its past: Jaishankar

World won’t legitimise Taliban regime if it takes power by force, says External Affairs Minister at SCO meet.

The world won’t legitimise a Taliban regime that comes to power in Kabul by force, indicated External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, amidst rapid advances made by the militant group on towns and border check-posts in various parts of Afghanistan.

Speaking at the “Contact group” meeting of the eight-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Dushanbe on Wednesday, which also issued a joint statement decrying the violence, Mr. Jaishankar said the future of Afghanistan “cannot be its past”, referring to the previous takeover of the country by the Taliban in 1996, adding that the world “must not let” the new generation of Afghans ‘down’.

“The world is against seizure of power by violence and force. It will not legitimise such actions,” Mr. Jaishankar told the grouping including Ministers from Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan.

Instead, Mr. Jaishankar said peace negotiations would need to result in an “acceptable compromise” that reflects the Doha, Moscow and Istanbul-Heart of Asia processes, and produces an “end state” that ensures a democratic and neutral Afghanistan free from terrorist attacks on civilians and ethnic groups, and a neighbourhood that is not threatened by “terrorism separatism and extremism”.

The representatives of the SCO countries including Mr. Jaishankar will travel on Thursday to Tashkent along with representatives of about 40 countries for a “Central and South Asia” connectivity conference that will see Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani take centre stage together for the meeting hosted by Uzbekistan President Shovkat Mirziyoyev, which U.S. Special Envoy on Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad will also attend. Mr. Jaishankar is expected to call on President Ghani on Thursday and meet Ambassador Khalilzad during his two-day stay in Tashkent.

While the original focus of the conference was to be on projects like the Uzbekistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan railway projects and transit trade agreements, and the Uzbekistan-Iran-India trilateral on the Chabahar project connecting Central and South Asia, the security situation is expected to be at the top of the agenda, given the developments in the past week.

Taliban militants have claimed to have taken control of some border check-posts along Iran, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Diplomatic officials here told The Hindu that the Central Asian countries gathering for the conference are in particular worried about the possible spillover of violence across their borders with Afghanistan, revival of splinter jihadist groups and a refugee influx if the situation deteriorates.

On Wednesday, Taliban claimed it had also taken control of the main Chaman-Spin Boldak crossing with Pakistan, while the Afghanistan government said the attack had been repelled.

Countries in the broader region are also expected to express concerns over the safety of personnel and development projects if the Taliban continues its advances and violent attacks. In the past week, India flew out all its personnel from the Kandahar consulate, while Russia pulled diplomatic staff from Mazar-e-Sharif and reports suggested China has also followed suit on evacuating its nationals.

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