Parties back government amid ‘fluid Afghan situation’

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All parties, including the Congress and Trinamool backed the government in its efforts to evacuate Indians stranded in Afghanistan and ensure the safety of those awaiting return to their homeland at a meeting convened to brief them on the issue. With the situation being fluid after the Taliban took over the country and the role of other Afghan leaders and groups still unclear, India has adopted a “wait and watch” position till the new dispensation takes shape.

Foreign minister S Jaishankar made the opening remarks at the meeting of floor leaders of all political parties in Parliament on the Afghan situation, the steps being taken to bring back Indians and those interested in coming to India, and the road ahead. He then asked foreign secretary Harsh V Shringla to give a detailed presentation.

Shringla informed the leaders that India was working with its key partners in the Afghan theatre and is continuing its engagement with the people of Afghanistan, ET has learnt.

He said the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) is closely monitoring the political and security developments in Afghanistan and emphasised that India needs to wait and watch and see how the new set-up is formed — whether it is solely a government of the Taliban or whether there is power sharing with other sections.

“The situation is quite fluid, and the Indian government needs to keep a close watch on the developments. New Delhi is also continuing consultations with important stakeholders and regional countries,” Shringla said.

Evacuation of Indian nationals from Afghanistan and safety of diplomatic personnel has been the top-most priority of the government, Shringla said, adding that the Indian government is helping Afghans — and those from neighbouring countries — who have sought help for evacuation of their nationals. India has been coordinating with the international community on Afghanistan as the largest regional donor country.

India has set up three control centres to deal with the situation. This includes a Special Afghanistan Cell in the MEA, stationing an Indian team at the Kabul airport, and putting in place local coordinators within the capital city. The Special Cell, set up on August 16, is manned by 20 officials and is functional 24×7 to coordinate in repatriation and deal with other requests from Afghanistan. This Cell has handled 3014 calls, 7826 messages and 3101 emails so far.

A multi-agency team located at the Kabul airport coordinated with Nato and US for landing permissions and access to the airport for people reaching there. Indian government also hired a local security agency to escort people travelling to the airport.

Floor leaders of all political parties emphasized that since this is a sensitive issue involving India in the international fora, they support the government in its efforts. However, the leaders sought clarifications on some issues after the presentation.

JDS leader Deve Gowda was the first to laud the government’s efforts. Some other parties also congratulated the government on the measures taken. Sources said leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge sought to know the number of Indians stranded in Afghanistan, but the government could not give the figures of those stuck in the country. Congress floor leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury supported the government’s efforts.

Trinamool leaders Sukhendu Shekhar Roy and Saugata Roy said all endeavours to evacuate Indians — be they Hindu, Sikh or any other — are welcome.

Sharad Pawar (NCP), Prasanna Acharya (BJD), Asadudin Owaisi (AIMIM), Anupriya Patel (Apna Dal), T Siva (DMK), A Navneetkrishnan (AIADMK), RCP Singh (JDU), Pashupati Kumar Paras (LJP) and PC Gupta (RJD) were among those who attended the meeting.

In his presentation, Shringla also said that as the Chair of the UN Security Council, India called for a special session on Afghanistan on August 16, 2021. The message conveyed by most members was to appeal to the Security Council and international community to stand together and use all tools to suppress the global terrorist threat in Afghanistan and guarantee that basic human rights will be respected.

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