After Islamabad, Beijing will not hold the New Delhi meeting on Kabul; Iran and Russia join

AFTER PAKISTAN’s refusal last week, China cited “timing issues” to signal that it will not participate in the Delhi Regional Security Dialogue on Afghanistan on November 10, sources told The Indian Express.

While the two neighbors have chosen to stay away, the other key countries in the region – Russia, Iran, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan –should participate in the meeting to be held at the level of national security advisers, and chaired by NSA Ajit Doval.

Although it declined to attend, China has indicated its willingness to maintain contact and discussions through bilateral diplomatic channels.

Sources said the meeting will consider the evolution of a “regional security architecture” to deal with the challenges arising from the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, mainly terrorism within and beyond its borders, radicalization and extremism, cross-border movement, drug production and trafficking, and the potential use of weapons and equipment left behind by the United States and their allies.

The Delhi meeting will bring together Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani (Iran), Nikolai P Patrushev (Russia), Karim Massimov (Kazakhstan), Marat Mukanovich Imankulov (Kyrgyzstan), Nasrullo Rahmatjon Mahmudzoda (Tajikistan), Charymyrat Kakalyyevkmen Makhmudov (Uzbekistan).

Senior security officials are expected to jointly address Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday. Some of the visiting delegates will also travel to Amritsar and Agra for sightseeing.

As Afghanistan’s security concerns dominate Delhi’s mind, the conference is held on the “current situation and future prospects” of the Taliban-ruled country. Besides the multilateral element, there will also be bilateral meetings, sources said.

The Foreign Ministry said that “the high-level dialogue will examine the security situation in the region resulting from recent developments in Afghanistan.”

“He will deliberate on measures to address relevant security challenges and support the Afghan people in promoting peace, security and stability,” he said.

“India has always maintained close and friendly relations with the Afghan people and called for a unified international response to address the security and humanitarian challenges facing Afghanistan. The next meeting is a step in that direction, ”he said.

Last week, in response to a question about the journalists’ meeting in Islamabad, Pakistan’s national security adviser Moeed Yusuf said he would not attend, and added that “a spoiler cannot not be a peacemaker ”in an apparent reference to India, the host.

Sources in Delhi said there is a “consensus” among countries in the region attending the conference that Pakistan is “the source of the problem.” There is a credibility gap between Pakistan’s actions and intentions on Afghanistan, sources said.

“Pakistan’s decision is unfortunate, but not surprising. It reflects his mentality of seeing Afghanistan as his protectorate. Pakistan has not attended previous meetings of this format. His media comments against India are an unsuccessful attempt to distract from its pernicious role in Afghanistan, ”sources said.

According to sources, the country’s main security establishment, the Secretariat of the National Security Council, is taking the lead in organizing the conference. The meeting is a “security track”, which is different from the “diplomatic track”, and the “czars of the security establishments” of these countries will discuss “practical cooperation”, they said.

However, according to sources, there have been no requests or plans to invite the Taliban as none of the participating countries have recognized or legitimized the regime so far. They do not exclude the possibility of inviting other countries, including the United States, in the next editions of the event.

According to sources, there has been an “overwhelming response to India’s invitation.”

“The countries of Central Asia as well as Russia and Iran have confirmed their participation. It would be the first time that all Central Asian countries, and not just Afghanistan’s immediate neighbors, would participate in this format. The enthusiastic response is a manifestation of the importance attached to India’s role in regional efforts to promote peace and security in Afghanistan, ”they said.

Stressing the need to actively engage with the world to protect its security interests, sources said the event could be the way for India to sit down at the table to decide the future line of driving over Afghanistan. “When you are not at the table, you are on the menu… this conference is India’s attempt to set the table, to be at the table and to decide the agenda,” they said. .

Until the fall of Kabul, India did not engage with the Taliban through official, publicly announced channels. For Delhi, the event is an “important game” as the government has made it clear that it has red lines on Taliban dispensation – it should not allow terrorist shelters on its soil, it should be inclusive and it should protect the rights of minorities, women and children.

But so far, the signs of the Taliban have not been encouraging, according to the record shared by New Delhi with its interlocutors.

Sources said that two meetings were held in this format in Iran in September 2018 and December 2019. The third meeting in India could not be held earlier due to the pandemic.

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