M.J. Akbar, minister of state for foreign affairs. Photo: AFP
M.J. Akbar, minister of state for foreign affairs. Photo: AFP

Can’t squander human rights wins in Afghanistan: M.J. Akbar

There can be neither solution nor resolution without principled commitment to law, to democracy as the basis of order and to human rights, says M.J. Akbar, minister of state for foreign affairs

New Delhi: India on Tuesday warned against squandering the achievements made in human rights and women’s education and emancipation in Afghanistan in the efforts for a political settlement in the war-torn country.

“There can be neither solution nor resolution without principled commitment to law, to democracy as the basis of order and to human rights," said M.J. Akbar, minister of state for foreign affairs, in a speech at a conference hosted by Uzbekistan.

“At the centre of human rights is gender emancipation: the right of women to equality, education, social assertion and full participation in the economic and political life of Afghanistan. These rights are the standard bearers of the 21st century. Without them the negotiating table will be an arid retreat towards regression," he said.

Crediting the Afghan government and the international community for turning around the country after five years of Taliban rule—between 1996 and 2001—Akbar said better education, nutrition and healthcare had percolated to the grassroots. “We cannot abandon these gains in search of a political settlement," he warned.

The remarks followed Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev making an offer to host the talks between the Afghan government and the rebel Taliban. The conference hosted by Tashkent aims to lay the groundwork for direct talks between the Afghan government and the militants widely suspected to be backed and controlled by Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence agency.

“Our Afghan brothers and sisters are being denied both rights and opportunity by fear and violence. They are victims of ideological extremism and brutal terrorism, often sponsored from beyond their borders ...by elements trapped in regressive doctrine and cynical interests. We in India are profoundly troubled by the continuing suffering of our Afghan brethren, a tragedy that has crossed generations. This has to change," Akbar said.

The Tashkent conference was attended by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani but there were no Taliban representatives. European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and a number of foreign ministers, including Sergei Lavrov of Russia, Wang Yi of China, and Turkey’s Mevlut Cavusoglu, attended the Tashkent conference. The US was represented by undersecretary of state for political affairs Thomas Shannon.

In his speech, Akbar noted that “peace and reconciliation are difficult objectives in an atmosphere of terror and violence. We support strong action to pursue those who still choose the path of terrorism, aided by those who manipulate funds from an illicit narcotics trade to finance terror against innocent people."

India stands committed to any process “which can help Afghanistan emerge as a united, peaceful, secure, stable, inclusive and economically vibrant nation, with guaranteed gender and human rights," Akbar said, adding: “We must all conform to internationally recognized red lines."

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