With the Taliban now in control in Kabul, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Wednesday said New Delhi is “very carefully” following the developments in Afghanistan and India’s focus is on ensuring the security and safe return of Indian nationals still in the war-torn country.
Jaishankar, addressing reporters at the UN Security Council stakeout after chairing an open-debate on peacekeeping under India’s current UNSC Presidency said, “that (situation in Afghanistan) is really what has been very much the focus of my own engagements here, talking to the UN Secretary General and other colleagues who are here as well as the US Secretary of State.”
“At the moment we are, like everybody else, very carefully following developments in Afghanistan. I think our focus is on ensuring the security in Afghanistan and the safe return of Indian nationals who are there,” he said.
Jaishankar has discussed the situation in Afghanistan in his bilateral meetings, including with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. He arrived in New York on Monday as the UN Security Council held an emergency meeting on the situation in Afghanistan, the second time in just over 10 days that the powerful UN body met under India’s Presidency for the month of August to discuss the situation in the war-torn country.
In response to another question on India’s investments in Afghanistan over the last two decades and whether New Delhi will be engaged in Afghanistan now that the Taliban is in control, he said, “You used the word investment. I mean, for us, it reflected what was a historical relationship with the Afghan people. I think that relationship with the Afghan people obviously continues and that will guide our approach to Afghanistan in the coming days. At this time, as I said, these are early days. Our focus right now is on ensuring the safety and security of Indian nationals who are there.”
Asked whether India has had any communication with the Taliban in recent days, Jaishankar said, “At this point of time, we are looking at what is the evolving situation in Kabul.”
“Obviously, the Taliban and its representatives have come to Kabul so I think we need to take it on from there,” he said without directly responding to the question.
Following his meeting with Guterres in the UN headquarters on Tuesday, Jaishankar had tweeted “Good to meet UN Secretary General @antonioguterres. Our discussions focused on Afghanistan, following upon the Security Council meeting yesterday.”
He also met Estonia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Eva-Maria Liimets and as “UNSC members, discussed our working together on maritime and cyber security and other global issues. Exchanged views on the developments in Afghanistan. Look forward to her presence at the Council meeting tomorrow.”
Jaishankar also discussed the “latest developments” in Afghanistan with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and “underlined the urgency of restoring airport operations in Kabul. Deeply appreciate the American efforts underway in this regard.”
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that Blinken spoke with Jaishankar “today about Afghanistan and the developing situation there.”
Jaishankar said he also discussed the evolving situation in Afghanistan with French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian. “We will continue to coordinate in the UN Security Council. Thank him for evacuating 21 Indian nationals from Kabul to Paris,” he added.
India on Tuesday rushed back home its ambassador Rudrendra Tandon and staff from the embassy in Kabul in a military transport aircraft following escalating tension, fear and uncertainty gripping the Afghan capital after the Taliban insurgents seized it on Sunday.
The C-17 Globemaster aircraft of the Indian Air Force carrying around 150 people, including diplomats, officials, security personnel and some stranded Indians, landed at the Hindon airbase near the national capital at around 5 PM after a brief halt at Jamnagar in Gujarat, in the wake of escalating tension, fear and uncertainty gripping the Afghan capital after its takeover by the Taliban two days back.
It was the second evacuation flight as another C-17 aircraft brought back around 40 people from the Hamid Karzai International (HKI) Airport in Kabul on Monday as part of India’s emergency evacuation mission, that was carried out following coordination with relevant authorities, including US officials handling security at the airport in the Afghan capital.