In the first of its kind conference, India has invited Iran, Russia and all five Central Asian countries, including Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, to participate in the NSA level meeting on Afghanistan.

The meeting is scheduled for November 10 and will be held at the level of National Security Advisors (NSAs) and will be chaired by NSA Ajit Doval. Two earlier meetings in this format were held in Iran in September 2018 and December 2019, the sources said, adding the third meeting in India could not be held earlier due to the pandemic.

Reports have suggested that the NSA meeting will address issues ranging from cross border terror threats, the presence of terror groups, political instability to the spread of extremism and radical ideas from Afghanistan.

India has security concerns after the insurgent group took over power in mid-August. The main agenda of the conference includes security Challenges post-Taliban regime, stability in Afghanistan, inclusive government formation and recognition of the current dispensation to be discussed.

India has been involved in projects of connectivity to Afghanistan and Central Asia, including the Chabahar port project in Iran and the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline. The conference will be closely watched for any outcome on developments (if any) on these projects further. India will also maintain that it remains an important figure in Afghanistan’s future as a development and trade partner in the war-torn country.

Sources told The Indian Express that it is for the first time that all Central Asian countries would be participating in this format of meeting on Afghanistan.

Invitations were sent to the NSA counterparts in China, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The invitations were sent out last month by the National Security Council Secretariat via the invitee countries’ embassy in New Delhi.

Iran, Russia and all five Central Asian countries, including Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, have confirmed their participation in the meet.

However, China and Pakistan have not confirmed participation. Pakistan’s National Security Advisor Moeed Yusuf announced that he would not attend the meeting, apparently to protest India’s alleged negative role in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Indian officials are hopeful of the Chinese Minister for State Security Chen Wenqing or another security official virtually attending the conference, a report in The Hindu said.

As of now, no country has recognised the acting Taliban regime headed by ‘Prime Minister’ Hasan Akhund. But, many nations including India are engaging Taliban officials at different levels. In a UN meeting in Afghanistan, External affairs minister S Jaishankar said New Delhi has been monitoring the developments with ‘understandable concern’ in Afghanistan following its takeover by the Taliban.

India, time and again, has made it clear that to the Taliban dispensation that it should not allow safe havens for terror on its soil, the new administration should be inclusive, and the rights of minorities, women and children must be protected.

It is pertinent to note that India has had historical ties with Afghanistan and its people for since long. The country also had friendly relations with the Afghan government that was recently ousted as the Taliban took over. After the takeover, India has reiterated that it always stands with Afghan people and is ready to send humanitarian aid, like it did in the past.

In the recent United Nations meeting, Jaishankar made it clear at a UN meeting that India is ready to send humanitarian aid to Afghan people and called for the global community to help create the best possible enabling environment in the country.

India has dubbed Pakistan’s decision “unfortunate, but not surprising”. “It reflects its mindset of viewing Afghanistan as its protectorate. Pakistan has not attended the previous meetings of this format. Its media comments against India are an unsuccessful attempt to deflect attention from its pernicious role in Afghanistan,” New Delhi maintained.

Sources said Pakistan’s comments against India on hosting the dialogue are an unsuccessful attempt to deflect attention from its “pernicious role” in Afghanistan.

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