Jaishankar meets Afghan president Ashraf Ghani in Tashkent
External affairs minister S. Jaishankar met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Tashkent on Thursday on the sidelines of the Central Asia-South Asia Connectivity Summit, continuing with his series of engagements on that country.
Nothing much was officially revealed about what transpired at the meeting except what the minister himself posted on Twitter.
“Pleased to call on President @ashrafghani. Discussed the current situation in and around Afghanistan. Reiterated our support for peace, stability and development of Afghanistan,” Jaishankar tweeted.
Pleased to call on President @ashrafghani. Discussed the current situation in and around Afghanistan. Reiterated our support for peace, stability and development of Afghanistan. pic.twitter.com/heTlL9KwaQ— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) July 15, 2021
This meeting comes close on the heels of Jaishankar’s interaction with Afghanistan’s foreign minister Mohammed Haneef Atmar in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, on Wednesday on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation foreign ministers’ meet. There, too, Jaishankar had underlined the need for ensuring that Afghanistan’s future is not a return to its past; adding that the world will not legitimise seizure of power by violence and force.
The meetings with the Afghan leadership comes at a time when India has evacuated its staff from the Kandahar consulate with the Taliban making advances in Afghanistan’s second largest city in the south near the Pakistan border.
Jaishankar also met homeland security adviser to US President Joe Biden, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, and the US’s special representative for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, who are in Tashkent for the connectivity conference which will also focus on Afghanistan given its centrality to land routes from Central to South Asia.
Reports from Kabul indicate that the Taliban has fired a large number of mortars at the Salma Dam, funded and constructed by India in Herat in western Afghanistan. There was no report of any extensive damage to the project, also known as the Afghan-India Friendship Dam, but given Pakistan’s relations with the Taliban, India is conscious of its vulnerabilities.
Unlike China and Russia, India has not yet got any public assurance from the Taliban that its vast investments in Afghanistan will be protected as fighting intensifies across the country in the wake of the pullout by US troops after two decades.
Concerned about the fate of its investments in Afghanistan, India has apparently opened channels of communications with the Taliban; reversing its decades-old policy of not dealing with the outfit.
With India investing heavily in the reconstruction of Afghanistan over the past decade-and-a-half, the Narendra Modi government appears to have adopted a pragmatic approach to secure Indian investments. India has 550 community development projects across all 34 provinces of the strife-torn country, and these cannot be sustained without the support of the Afghan government which right now appears to be fighting a losing battle with the Taliban.