Doval says India guided by interest of Afghans, urges Taliban to ensure education for girls

At a regional security conference, NSA asserts India’s special relationship with Afghanistan will continue

Updated - May 28, 2022 02:28 am IST

Published - May 27, 2022 07:55 pm IST - NEW DELHI

National Security Adviser Ajit Doval. File

National Security Adviser Ajit Doval. File | Photo Credit: PTI

Afghanistan must ensure education for girls, National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval said at the 4th Regional Dialogue on Security being held in Tajikistan capital Dushanbe.

Emphasising India’s decision to help Afghanistan with humanitarian aid despite no India-Afghanistan relations with the Taliban regime, he asserted that India remained an “important stakeholder”

“The special relationship with the people of Afghanistan over centuries will guide India’s approach. Nothing can change this,” he stated at the conference of NSAs and State Security Council Chiefs attended by China, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

Watch | The Taliban regime and Afghanistan's humanitarian crisis

“Women and youth are critical for the future of any society. Provision of education to girls and employment to women and youth will ensure productivity and spur growth. It will also have a positive social impact including discouraging radical ideologies among youth,” he observed, according to official accounts of the closed-door two-day meeting released to the media.

Girl students issue

In the past few weeks, international calls for the Taliban to rescind an order that mandated girl students in secondary schools, from grade 6-12 were not allowed to attend school. India was part of a United Nations Security Council statement criticising the Taliban regime’s actions, as well as other restrictions on women in education and employment.

“There is need for all present at the Dialogue to enhance the capability of Afghanistan to counter terrorism and terrorist groups which pose a threat to regional peace and security,” Mr. Doval remarked, according to news agency PTI, indicating that the government is prepared to distinguish between the Afghan regime and trans-national terror groups.

His comments are significant as India has engaged with regional and global stakeholders over the past few weeks, with a focus on the security situation emanating from Afghanistan. Last week, the National Security Council hosted a five-day Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meeting of the Regional Anti-Terror Structure (SCO-RATS) in Delhi, which included delegates from Pakistan and China. On Wednesday and Thursday, United States Special envoy Thomas West met with government officials and also met Afghan leader Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, who is visiting Delhi.

“Special Representative for Afghanistan (SRA) West was in India to consult with the Indian government about how we can work together to support the Afghan people. India is an important partner for addressing these challenges,” the U.S. Embassy spokesperson told The Hindu on Friday. Earlier, Mr. West had tweeted that the U.S. would continue to “partner” India and others in the region to support the Afghan people, citing India’s provision of “critical humanitarian aid” and key interests to protect in the country.

Engaging Taliban officials

While India has refused to recognise the Taliban regime, it has engaged Taliban officials in Doha and other locations since their takeover of Kabul in August 2021. After Pakistan gave clearance for transit trade access, India has sent about 17000 metric tonnes (MT) of wheat out of a total commitment of 50000 MT, and has also sent vaccine doses for COVID-19 and Polio, urgently needed medicines and winter clothing on flights to Kabul.

The Ministry of External Affairs has refused to confirm reports that India is also considering re-establishing its diplomatic presence in Kabul, as at least 15 countries, including Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan and a few Central Asian states have. The U.S. and the EU also maintain quasi-missions in the Afghan capital. However, as The Hindu has reported, the government has been seeking regular intelligence and security inputs on the possibility of stationing officials in Kabul in order to deal with the regime and continuing to assist Afghans, officials had said.

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