India, US 'Closely Watching' Pakistan's Actions in Afghanistan, Says Indian Foreign Secretary
07:35 GMT 04.09.2021 (Updated: 12:03 GMT 04.09.2021)
Pakistan has complained that it isn't getting even-handed treatment from Washington on par with India, despite playing a “make or break” role in Afghanistan. In an Financial Times interview last month, Pakistan’s National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf complained that US President Joe Biden had so far not called up Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla has said that New Delhi and Washington continue to have somewhat similar policies regarding the unfolding developments in Afghanistan, as both the governments were following a "wait and watch" approach as well as observing the role of Islamabad in the current developments.
"The US is watching (the situation) very carefully. They are looking at how things are shaping up. I can't say whether there is any perceptible difference. But, like us, they're watching carefully," said Shringla, while addressing a press conference in Washington, DC at the end of his three-day visit to the US.
During Shringla’s visit to the US, the Indian diplomat held bilateral consultations with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Jon Finer, the Principal Deputy National Security Advisor (NSA), as per the Indian foreign affairs minister.
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Official statements from both the governments said that the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan and the developments in the Indo-Pacific region were the major points of discussion between the two nations during Shringla’s visit.
“We also had the opportunity to meet Secretary Blinken. He gave a lot of his time and spoke on issues ranging from Afghanistan to the (upcoming) Quad Summit,” stated the Indian foreign secretary.
During his visit to India in July this year, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Washington and New Delhi would continue to “work together” to support “regional stability” in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of coalition forces.
Shringla’s remarks on Pakistan come against the backdrop of Delhi’s increasing concerns regarding its neighbourhood in the wake of the fall of Kabul to the Taliban on 15 August. The Indian leadership worries that Pakistan could use its apparent leverage over the Taliban to let the territory of Afghanistan be used to mobilise and train terrorist groups targeting India and Indian interests.
Addressing a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) debate about “threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts” on 19 August, the Indian foreign minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar lamented the “double speak” of certain nations who were extending “state hospitality” to terrorist networks.
“The heightened activities of the proscribed Haqqani Network justify this growing anxiety. Whether it is in Afghanistan or against India, groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed continue to operate with both impunity and encouragement,” Jaishankar stated.
Indian foreign ministry officials told Sputnik that the Haqqani Network, which they say has “roots in Pakistan”, is a “big worry” for New Delhi.
While the Haqqani Network has been branded as a “foreign terrorist organisation” by the US, the Taliban has rejected the claims.
"The Haqqanis are not a group. They are part of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. They are the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan," Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen was quoted as saying by the BBC on 2 September.
Meanwhile, the US State Department said this week that the Haqqani Network and the Taliban are “two separate entities”. The Pentagon later backtracked from the assessment.
Further, Shringla also said on Friday that he expected the Taliban to be "reasonable" in its dealings, saying that Delhi so far hadn’t had any “robust discussions” with the Islamist outfit.
India also for the first time acknowledged that it was holding discussions with the Taliban, as per the foreign ministry. In the meeting on 31 August, India voiced its concern that “Afghanistan’s soil should not be used for anti-Indian activities and terrorism in any manner,” said the official statement.
“The Taliban Representative assured the Ambassador that these issues would be positively addressed,” it added.