India hosts talks on Afghanistan, with no Afghan official invited

Nov 10, 2021: India is hosting top security officials from Russia, Iran and five Central Asian countries to discuss the situation in Afghanistan, but no Afghan representative is participating.

India’s rivals Pakistan and China also on Wednesday refused to attend the Delhi regional security talks on Afghanistan following the fall of the US-backed government and the Taliban’s takeover of the country.

Ajit Doval, India’s national security adviser, invited security chiefs from Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan for talks. “It’s time for a close consultation between us,” Doval said in introductory remarks before the meeting. He said he hoped the talks would help the people of Afghanistan and enhance the collective security of the region.

The meeting will “support the people of Afghanistan in addressing relevant security challenges and promoting peace, security and stability,” the Indian Foreign Ministry (MEA) said in a statement.

Top security officials were expected to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday. The first two editions of the summit were hosted by Iran in 2018 and 2019.

Pakistan’s National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf last week called India a “spoiler” and not a “peacemaker” in Afghanistan.

India’s MEA officials said Pakistan’s refusal to attend the meeting was “unfortunate, but not surprising” and “reflects its mindset of viewing Afghanistan as its protectorate”.

The meeting underscores India’s attempts to protect its strategic interests in Afghanistan amid Pakistan’s growing influence in the region.  India’s leaders fear the Taliban rise to power will benefit Pakistan and feed a long-simmering rebellion in Indian-administered Kashmir.

New Delhi’s relations with Afghanistan are in limbo. It has no diplomatic presence in Kabul since the US withdrew its staff from Afghanistan before the withdrawal.

However, India had its first formal meeting with a Taliban representative in Qatar on August 31.

Prior to the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul, India provided operational training and military equipment to Afghan security forces, although it had no troops on the ground. It was also the largest country in the region providing development assistance to Afghanistan.

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