Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday discussed charting out a “coordinated” strategy in Afghanistan, while National Security Advisors from the five BRICS countries met virtually to discuss developments there with a focus on combating terrorism.
Officials said the Russian President called Mr. Modi to discuss developments in Afghanistan, with the two leaders agreeing to set up a “permanent bilateral channel” on the issues arising from the Taliban takeover of the country.
“Had a detailed and useful exchange of views with my friend President Putin on recent developments in Afghanistan. We also discussed issues on the bilateral agenda, including India-Russia cooperation against COVID-19. We agreed to continue close consultations on important issues, Mr. Modi tweeted after the 45-minute conversation.
Among the particular areas of concern were ensuring regional security, countering radicalisation and spread of “terrorist ideology”, and the proliferation of drugs as a consequence of the developments, a Russian Embassy spokesperson said.
These were also issues that figured as the NSAs from India, Russia, China, Brazil and South Africa met virtually, one of the key meetings in the lead up to next month’s BRICS leaders’ summit, which India is chairing.
NSA Ajit Doval hosted the virtual meet, which was attended by General Nikolai Patrushev, Secretary of Russia’s Security Council, Yang Jiechi, Chinese Politburo member and Director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission, General Augusto Heleno Pereira, Brazil’s Minister of State and Head of the Institutional Security Cabinet, and Ncediso Goodenough Kodwa, South Africa’s Deputy Minister of State Security.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said the meeting “reviewed the regional and global political and security scenario with particular reference to current developments in Afghanistan, Iran, West Asia and the Gulf, and emerging threats to national security, such as Cyber Security.”
The meeting also discussed counter-terrorism, and India raised “the issue of cross-border terrorism and activities of groups such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed which enjoy State support and threaten peace and security,” the MEA said. The Ministry added that the representatives “adopted and recommended the BRICS Counter Terrorism Action Plan”, which aims to strengthen existing mechanisms of cooperation in areas such as financing and combating terrorism, misuse of the Internet by terrorists, and curbing the travel of terrorists, strengthening border controls, ahead of the upcoming leaders’ summit.
On Afghanistan, there do remain differences within the grouping, with China and Russia broadly aligning their positions.
China and Russia, along with Pakistan, are among the few countries that continue to keep their embassies open in Afghanistan in contrast to India which has evacuated all of its diplomatic personnel.
Both Russia and China continue to maintain their diplomatic presence on the ground in Kabul and have hosted Taliban delegations on a number of occasions, most recently by China on July 28. However, both are yet to offer recognition to the new regime in Afghanistan, as the government formation talks are underway.
How far India and Russia can indeed coordinate their strategies, as both leaders discussed on Tuesday, remains to be seen.
Both Indian and Russian officials said the conversation indicated the desire of both leaders to strengthen common areas in their positions on Afghanistan, as well as engaging Central Asian states on common concerns of terrorism.
The officials also said it was significant that Mr. Putin reached out to Mr. Modi directly, indicating the Russian interest in working with India bilaterally, multilaterally at the UNSC, and at other fora like SCO and BRICS, despite the differences between India and China on the Afghanistan issue, and on the role of Pakistan in facilitating the Taliban.
China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement the BRICS NSA’s meet was “an important platform for the five countries to strengthen political security cooperation.”
“National security advisors of the five countries will hold in-depth exchange of views to reach broad consensus on the global, regional and international security landscape and cooperation in such fields as health, law enforcement, counter-terrorism and cyber security,” spokesperson Wang Wenbin said. “We hope all five members will jointly deal with conventional and non-conventional security challenges, safeguard our security and development interests, promote world peace and stability, and foster a favourable atmosphere for the summit to be held next month.”