External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Friday said that it is hard to take a “very definitive position” on Afghanistan as the situation there is still unfolding and there are “live issues” to consider, such as whether there will be an inclusive government in Kabul and whether Afghan soil will be used for terrorism in other countries.
In an interactive session at the India Today conclave, when asked about the spate of targeted killings in Kashmir and whether the Afghan developments could impact India’s internal situation, Mr Jaishankar said he would not like to draw certain connections with Afghanistan without any evidence.
About the possibility of resumption of dialogue with Pakistan, he said the prospect does not look good and asserted that there is no other situation in the world where a country actually runs “this kind of scale of terrorism” against its neighbours.
Referring to Pakistan, he said, “For me, a normal country is a country that does not sponsor terrorism against its neighbours. Right now the prospects do not look good.”
Asked about Islamabad’s support to various terror groups operating from Afghan soil, the External Affairs Minister said the role of Pakistan in what happened in Afghanistan is not a secret and it is very public now.
On the growing perception that the Pakistan spy agency succeeded in its design in Afghanistan and that what happened in Kabul was a strategic setback for India, Mr Jaishankar said New Delhi has to deal with whatever the situation is.
At the same time, he added that “sometimes, we all tend to make very sweeping sort of statements or judgements or assessments. I think the picture is a little more complex, more granular than that.”
“It has been less than two months since the Taliban took Afghanistan and it is quite obvious that things are far from settled even in Kabul. I would urge some patience, some deliberations and some caution,” he said.
To a question on whether India is adopting a wait-and-watch approach on engagement with the Taliban after Indian envoy to Qatar Deepak Mittal’s meeting with Taliban leader Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai in Doha in late August, Mr Jaishankar did not give a direct reply and generally replied that he would prefer to make due diligence on issues of policy-making.
He said there could be things happening which he may not be able to speak about and that India’s primary contact has been in Doha. “That’s where it is,” he said.
On the overall situation, Mr Jaishankar said it is still unfolding and India is responding to the evolving situation as it is hard to take a “very definitive position” beyond that because of lack of clarity.
“There is still a lot of lack of clarity. Obviously, some of the more visible changes are apparent. So you have to take your positions, make your decisions on the basis of what you have. Now the general sense in the international community is that there are some basic expectations which the world has of Afghanistan,” Mr Jaishankar said.
“The most basic of them is actually the fact that Afghan soil will not be used for terrorism against other countries. There are also expectations about the nature of the government that it will be inclusive in some form,” he said.
He also noted that there are questions over how the minorities, women and children are dealt with.
“These are all live issues and we are actually quite involved in shaping the thinking of the international community on that, partly because we also happen to be at this time a UN Security Council member,” Mr Jaishankar said.
On Thursday, speaking at a conclave of the DD News, Jaishankar had said the Afghan people know “what India has done for them, what kind of friends we have been.”
“I am sure they’re contrasted with what Pakistan did for them in the same period. And I think the differences are obvious. And in terms of where our relationship with Pakistan goes, everybody wants to be friends with their neighbours’, but you want to be friends on terms which a civilized world will accept,” he said.
The external affairs minister said, “terrorism is not one of those terms”.
“So, you know, neighbours’ are supposed to trade with you, neighbours’ are supposed to give you connectivity, neighbours’ are supposed to promote contacts, to increase travel,” he said.
“Now, all of that hasn’t happened with this neighbour. So, I think they have an important choice whether to be a normal neighbour, to us, a lot of it the next 75 years would depend on the choice that they make,” he added.