The statement said practical engagement with Afghanistan will have to take into account the reality of a new administration run by the Pakistan-backed Taliban
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NEW DELHI :
India doesn’t seem too happy with a statement emanating from Russia at the end of Moscow Format Consultations on Afghanistan that says that practical engagement with Afghanistan will have to take into account the new reality in the country—that is,the new administration run by the Pakistan-backed Taliban.
The Moscow Format Consultations took place in the Russian capital on Wednesday and brought together special representatives or senior officials from Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. There was also a high-level delegation from the interim Afghan government headed by Deputy Prime Minister Mawlawi Abdul Salam Hanafi.
The main cause of New Delhi's unease has been the line in the statement that says that “further practical engagement with Afghanistan needed to take into account the new reality, that is the Taliban coming to power in the country, irrespective of the official recognition of the new Afghan government by the international community."
This could mean that the “new reality" of Afghanistan would need to be kept in mind even for sending food aid for the people of the country.
The Moscow statement also called on the Taliban government in Afghanistan “to take further steps to improve governance and to form a truly inclusive government" that reflected the “interests of all major ethno-political forces in the country."
“The participating countries were pleased to note the reaffirmation by the interim Afghan government of its previous commitments to prevent use of the Afghan territory against its neighbours, other states in the region and the rest of the world," it said.
For now India, which was represented at the talks by J.P. Singh, who heads the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran desk and Adarsh Swaika, joint secretary, in charge of Eurasia in the Indian foreign ministry, is keeping its disquiet to itself, Mint has learnt.
India, which considers Russia a special friend, wouldn’t like to publicly dissociate itself from or be critical of a statement that has been put out after the meeting hosted by Moscow. New Delhi has also been keen to ensure it is part of groupings that has a say in the future of Afghanistan. There is also a question mark over whether the statement was a joint one—put out after a consensus reached among all attending countries or it was the host’s summary of the proceedings.
New Delhi has also not denied reports quoting a senior Taliban leader saying that India was ready to send food aid to Afghanistan. This had come after the Indian delegation at the Moscow talks met with the Taliban team on Wednesday.
A senior UN World Food Programme (WFP) official had earlier said that the organization was in contact with New Delhi over the issue of food aid to Afghanistan.
"This conversation has been going on for a couple of weeks now. So hopefully we can bring that to a good conclusion and hopefully would see another donation coming in because again as I said, there's a wheat deficit of 2.5 million tonnes this year in Afghanistan. So, really we need all the help we can get," representative and Country Director of WFP Afghanistan Mary-Ellen McGroarty had said.
According to a September 2021 WFP report, only 5% Afghan families had enough to eat every day, while half reported they had run out of food altogether at least once in September.
“For the first time, urban residents are suffering from food insecurity at similar rates to rural communities, which have been ravaged by drought twice in the past three years," it said.
“Due to the combined effects of unemployment, a drop in the value of the local currency and a rise in prices—cooking oil has almost doubled in price since 2020, and wheat is up by 28%—only 10 % of families headed by someone with a secondary or university education can afford sufficient food," it had said.
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