India joined the latest meeting of the ‘Moscow format consultations on Afghanistan’ that was held on Wednesday in the Russian capital. The Moscow format — one of the several dialogue platforms on Afghanistan — which began before the Taliban takeover of Kabul, consists of Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and India. Joint Secretary in-charge of the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran division of the Ministry of External Affairs, J.P. Singh, represented India at the talks.
“During the meeting, the participants discussed issues related to Afghanistan, including the current humanitarian situation and the ongoing efforts of various stakeholders to provide assistance, intra-Afghan talks, formation of an inclusive and representative government, efforts to counter threats of terrorism and ensuring regional security,” said the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in a statement.
The meeting was announced earlier this month by Zamir Kabulov, Special Representative of the President of the Russia for Afghanistan. Mr. Kabulov had outlined that the conference would try to discuss some of the negative trends started by the Taliban in the last one year. “Without imposing our own vision of the religious and cultural arrangement of public life on the Kabul authorities, we [will] frankly draw attention to the counter-productiveness of the restrictions imposed on the participation of women in the labour force and girls in the process of obtaining education,” Mr. Kabulov had said. A veteran Afghanistan-handler from Moscow, Mr. Kabulov has been championing a “trans-regional approach” to stabilise Afghanistan.
Mr. Singh, the Indian representative at the talks in Moscow, had led a humanitarian delegation to Kabul in June when he met with the leading Taliban figures and handed over large consignments of medicines and medical equipment to the Afghan people. Preliminary reports suggest that Wednesday’s talks were held without the participation of any Taliban representative. Taliban spokespersons are yet to explain the reason behind this absence.
India’s participation in the talks was confirmed by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on November 8 when he held bilateral talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. “It is important that the world should not forget the situation in Afghanistan because today it’s not getting the attention that it deserves,” Mr. Jaishankar had said.
Apart from the members of the Moscow format, guests from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates were invited to take part in the discussion. India, Russia and Iran are expected to form a separate group within the format to discuss specific concerns regarding the security situation in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.
The Moscow format also held an important meeting in Moscow on October 20, 2021, during which the regional stakeholders had the first chance to interact with the Taliban representatives. Over the last year, several countries have re-opened diplomatic missions in Kabul but the administration run by the Taliban has not yet received recognition at the global stage.