Jaishankar will also hold bilateral talks with a number of his counterparts including the foreign minister of Iran Hossein Amir Abdollahian
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NEW DELHI: The situation in Afghanistan after the takeover by the Taliban is expected to be high on the agenda as Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar visits Tajikistan on Thursday to participate in the regional Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting.
Jaishankar will also hold bilateral talks with a number of his counterparts including the foreign minister of Iran Hossein Amir Abdollahian.
A person familiar with the development neither confirmed nor ruled out a meeting with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi. Ties between India and China have been tense since New Delhi discovered incursions by Chinese troops into Indian territory in May 2020. While the two sides have pulled back troops from two places of contention, there are other areas of dispute between the neighbours.
According to a statement from the Indian foreign ministry on Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will virtually join the summit of heads of state of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) on 17 September. The Indian foreign minister on the other hand will represent India in the meeting on Afghanistan to be attended by the heads of state of SCO and the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).
“This Summit assumes significance as the organization is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. At the Summit, the leaders are expected to review the organization’s activities over the past two decades and discuss the state and prospects of future cooperation. Topical issues of regional and international importance are also expected to be discussed," the Indian statement said.
Among the bilateral meetings that Jaishankar could have on the sidelines of the SCO meet are those with his new Iranian counterpart Abdollahian and Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. Abdollahian, who named Iranian foreign minister after the swearing-in of new president Ebrahim Raesi, is expected to visit Tajikistan for the SCO meet.
The meetings are expected to be an opportunity to compare assessments on the evolving situation in Afghanistan. India, Iran and Russia were once the main backers of an anti-Taliban alliance between 1996 and 2001. This time, the equations are different given that Iran and Russia have been engaging the Taliban. India too has made some preliminary contacts with the Pakistan- backed group who announced their interim government last week.
Since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan on 15 August, India has made the point that the territory of Afghanistan must not be used for terrorism or anti-India activities. New Delhi has expressed concern about the lack of inclusiveness of the “dispensation" in Kabul while seeming to be in no hurry to recognise the Taliban administration. Iran has concerns about how the Hazara community who are predominantly Shia would be treated by the Taliban. Russia has concerns about the spillover of Taliban ideology into Central Asia. Afghanistan was one of the key issues on the table when Jaishankar and Abdollahian spoke to each other on the phone earlier this month.