U.S. envoy on Afghanistan meets NSA, Foreign Secretary

U.S. envoy on Afghanistan meets NSA, Foreign Secretary

Humanitarian crisis and facilitating travel of Afghans out of country was on top of agenda

The humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and facilitating the travel of Afghans out of the country was on the top of the agenda as U.S. Special Envoy Thomas West met National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla here on Tuesday.

Mr. West, who is on a multi-country tour of Europe and Asia, travelled to Delhi after meetings in Islamabad and Moscow.

“Discussions focused on the current developments in Afghanistan,” stated sources privy to the meetings. They discussed the Regional Security Dialogue of NSAs held in Delhi last week, as well as the “movement of people in and out of Afghanistan and coordinating global efforts on humanitarian assistance”.

In a tweet, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson said Mr. Shringla and Mr. West “exchanged views on recent developments and issues of common interest in Afghanistan”.

Mr. West is understood to have discussed his meetings in Pakistan, including a joint meeting he held with Russian special envoy Zamir Kabulov and Chinese special envoy Yue Xiaoyong with Pakistan Army Chief General Bajwa on Friday after a meeting of the “Extended Troika” with Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi.

Security Dialogue in Delhi

Mr. Doval, who chaired the Security Dialogue in Delhi on Wednesday that included Iran, Russia and five Central Asian States, briefed Mr. West on the outcomes in the “Delhi Declaration” issued after the meeting. In particular, India has drawn attention to the need for unhindered access to Afghanistan, given its desire to provide that country with 50,000 tonnes of wheat and medicines via road through Pakistan.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had promised to consider the proposal,which has been held up for weeks. There is no concrete announcement on moving the aid on trucks yet.

India, which has held a firm position of not recognising the Taliban, has been cautious about engaging the group that took control of Kabul in August last, and on dealing with Pakistan on the issue. Pakistan and China had also declined to attend the NSA meeting in Delhi, an indication of their differences with New Delhi.

However, in a detailed joint declaration, the Troika plus grouping had agreed to “continue practical engagement with the Taliban to encourage the implementation of moderate and prudent policies that can help achieve a stable and prosperous Afghanistan as soon as possible”, and it is likely the two sides discussed the parameters of the engagement with the Taliban.

Mr. West took over from former Special Envoy Zalmai Khalilzad when he stepped down from the post on October 18, and has been in a series of introductory meetings in Brussels, Islamabad, Moscow and Delhi. While he has indicated that he will be part of a U.S. “inter-agency dialogue” with Taliban representatives soon, it is unclear whether he will stop over in Doha or Kabul during this visit.

Economic emergency

In a press call from Brussels last week, Mr. West spoke about the need for countries engaged with Afghanistan to step up their efforts on the economic emergency and famine conditions ahead of the winter. He also referred to the “logistical challenge” of flying out those in Afghanistan who needed to travel to the U.S., including Afghans the US is indebted to, American citizens and “LPRs” (Lawful Permanent Residents).

“It is just imperative that allies act and work together effectively when it comes to securing our interests in Afghanistan. It’s also imperative that we work with the region – with Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, and the Central Asian States – on our common and abiding interest in a stable Afghanistan that does not represent a threat to its neighbours, is at peace with itself, and respects human rights, women’s rights, the rights of minorities, and so forth,” he observed during the press call.

As The Hindu reported in September, the U.S. is keen to find temporary refuge for thousands of Afghans in third countries where they can be processed pending their entry into the U.S., and U.S. officials have discussed the issue with India and other countries in the region.

However, New Delhi, which has thus far cancelled all pre-existing visas for Afghans and issued only a few dozen “e-visas” to those desperate to leave, has been hesitant to house large numbers of Afghan refugees.

The MEA did not respond to a question on whether Mr. West had taken the issue forward and whether India might consider allowing Afghans to stay in India while their U.S. papers are processed.

Your email address will not be published.