Delhi gears up for Afghanistan meeting tomorrow, China to stay away

Sources said India had never considered inviting a delegation from Taliban as it does not officially recognise the Taliban regime in Kabul

New Delhi: After Pakistan last week announced a boycott of India’s NSA-level conference on the “layered, nuanced and complicated” security situation in Afghanistan to be held this Wednesday, it was confirmed on Monday that Islamabad’s all-weather friend/benefactor China too has decided not to attend the “Delhi Regional Security Dialogue on Afghanistan”, citing “scheduling difficulties”. However, Beijing has apparently sent a conciliatory note mentioning that it is open to maintaining contact with India on the situation in Afghanistan in both bilateral and multilateral settings.

While New Delhi is disappointed with Beijing’s absence, it nevertheless is happy and encouraged by the participation of Russia, Iran and five Central Asian nations -- Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic and Turkmenistan -- who will all be represented by their respective national security advisers or security council secretaries. Sources said India had never considered inviting a delegation from the Taliban as it does not officially recognise the Taliban regime in Kabul. Sources also hinted that in future editions of the conference, the door could be “open” for other invitees to attend, including the United States.

Sources said the conference, to be chaired by national security adviser Ajit Doval, will be a “serious meeting of the security czars” of the participating nations and would hold deliberations on security threats arising from the current situation in Afghanistan such as “terrorism, radicalism and extremism, cross-border movements, drug trafficking, the vast arsenal of weapons left behind in Afghanistan” during the American military withdrawal, information and intelligence-sharing and also the issue of humanitarian assistance to the people of the strife-torn nation. Sources made it clear that going by India’s assessment, all the countries attending the conference on Wednesday feel Pakistan is the source of the problem in Afghanistan, although only some countries may be able to say this openly. They said Pakistan has provided resources and facilitation for the Haqqani Group and other terror outfits in Afghanistan and that India had invited Pakistan for the conference “only because this was the format” of the conference.

According to the sources, the endeavour at the conference would be to agree on the challenges facing the region and to find common ground and agree through consensus on what should be done. The sources said although the meeting “would not lead to a formal security architecture” for the region, it could well pave the way for the “gradual evolution” of such an architecture.

Meanwhile, in a formal statement issued in the evening, New Delhi said: “The high-level dialogue will review the security situation in the region arising from recent developments in Afghanistan. It will deliberate upon measures to address the relevant security challenges and support the people of Afghanistan in promoting peace, security and stability. India has traditionally enjoyed close and friendly ties with the people of Afghanistan and has called for a unified international response to address the security and humanitarian challenges facing Afghanistan. The forthcoming meeting is a step in that direction.”

The sources said the Central Asian nations that are “moderate” societies are worried about export of extremist ideology into their countries from Afghanistan. “None of these (participating) countries have legitimised the Taliban,” the sources said, adding it is not even on their agenda. The sources added that none of the countries invited had put a precondition on an invitation to the Taliban, thus indicating clearly that it was a non-issue. Asked about Beijing not attending due to “scheduling difficulties”, the sources said India didn’t want to speculate on the reasons but hinted it could be because of the sixth plenary of the Communist Party of China that has begun there on Monday.

According to the sources, the conclusions of the conference are bound to send a strong message to the Taliban regime in Kabul (that is backed by Islamabad). “Kabul will see. Kabul will hear,” the sources said, but also indicated that as per India’s assessment even the ISKP (Islamic State Khorasan Province) in Afghanistan has links with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency, despite reports of rivalry and conflict between the Taliban and the ISKP.

It is understood that at the conference, Iran will be represented by Rear Adm. Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Supreme National Security Council, Kazakhstan by Karim Massimov, chairman of the National Security Committee, the Kyrgyz Republic by Marat Mukanovich Imankulov, secretary of Security Council, Russia by Nikolai P. Patrushev, secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, Tajikistan by Nasrullo Rahmatjon Mahmudzoda, secretary, Security Council of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan by Charymyrat Kakalyyevvich Amavov, deputy chairman of Cabinet of Ministers of Turkmenistan on Security and secretary, State Security Council, and Uzbekistan by Victor Makhmudov, secretary of the Security Council.

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