NEW DELHI: Asserting India would stand with the people of Afghanistan, foreign minister, S Jaishankar said it was “essential that humanitarian assistance providers are accorded unimpeded, unrestricted and direct access to Afghanistan.” Addressing the UN High-Level Meeting on the Humanitarian Situation in Afghanistan on Monday evening, the minister said the recent UNSC resolution 2593 should “guide” the international community with regard to Afghanistan.
“As an immediate neighbour, India is monitoring developments in Afghanistan with “understandable concerns” he said. Jaishankar called for “normalisation of regular commercial operations of Kabul airport” which could help the flow of relief material to Afghans. The issues of travel, safe passage that can emerge as obstacle to humanitarian aid should be immediately sorted out, he said.
According to a recent UNDP report, anything from 72 to 97 percent of Afghan population could slip into poverty. Jaishankar said, “There is sea change in Afghanistan’s political, economic, social and security situation, and consequently its humanitarian needs,” without explicitly referring to the Taliban.
India did not pledge any money to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan today, probably the first time in 20 years that India has not done so. Jaishankar detailed India’s assistance and development aid to Afghanistan from fortified protein biscuits to infrastructure and capacity building. Until the Taliban takeover in mid August, India had a developmental presence in all 34 provinces of the country.
Afghanistan is passing through a “critical and challenging phase” he said. UK’s foreign secretary Dominic Raab, speaking at the same meeting, said he feared collapse in Afghanistan as well as regional instability. “We will not give aid directly to the Taliban” therefore it is crucial that aid organizations can act freely and safely. That seemed to be the overriding theme — allow unimpeded access to Afghanistan, allow people to freely leave if they want.
Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi asked for Afghanistan’s funds and reserves parked overseas to be released to help the Taliban government. Since there is little international trust in the Taliban government right now, that may be a while away.