Delhi Dialogue – Shanghai Minus Two A Heavy Agenda for the Taliban

The Third Regional Security Dialogue on Afghanistan was held on 10 November, 2021 in New Delhi in an expanded format, thus National Security Advisers / Secretaries of the National Security Councils of India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan participated in the meeting.

Pakistan and China did not participate in the meeting with the former even going to the extent of calling India a spoiler in Afghanistan while Beijing attempted to be more diplomatic citing scheduling challenges.

The Delhi Regional Dialogue thus appeared to be Shanghai Minus Two or all members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) minus China and Pakistan indicating a clear division of interests of members of the organisation. Moreover members appear to be pursuing their bilateral agendas with reference to Afghanistan denoting weakness of the cooperative architecture.

The Delhi Declaration sought a seven point agenda for the Taliban underlining commitment of the international community. These include stability in Afghanistan, condemnation of terrorism and terrorist actions as well as denial as a base for terror, radicalisation and extremism, formation of an inclusive government, UN Centrality, reiteration of women’s rights and speedy humanitarian assistance.

As the representatives met the Indian Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi he emphasised on four aspects necessary for stability in Afghanistan – “inclusive government; a zero-tolerance stance about Afghan territory being used by terrorist groups; a strategy to counter trafficking of drugs and arms from Afghanistan; and addressing the increasingly critical humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan”.

The issues raised are relevant however adherence to these by the Taliban or the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan appears to be highly unlikely in the near term due to ideological differences and governance challenges. The Taliban however is likely to publicly claim that many of the points covered such as an inclusive administration have been covered citing inclusion of a couple of Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara leaders in the government. With respect to women’s rights the Taliban are likely to propose education to girls in due times to come.

The main challenge however is provision of humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan who are facing multiple challenges given breakdown of administration and stoppage of aid and assistance.

The outcome represents a significant uptick for the Indian role in Afghanistan which has been circumscribed to an extent by attempts by Pakistan to keep India out.

Extracts of Delhi Declaration is appended below.

Extracts of the Delhi Declaration indicated that during the meeting, the National Security Advisers / Secretaries of the National Security Councils [concluded the following]:-

I. Reiterated strong support for a peaceful, secure and stable Afghanistan while emphasizing the respect for sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity and non-interference in its internal affairs.

II. Expressed deep concern over the suffering of the people of Afghanistan arising from the security situation in Afghanistan and condemned the terrorist attacks in Kunduz, Kandahar and Kabul.

III. Emphasised that Afghanistan’s territory should not be used for sheltering, training, planning or financing any terrorist acts.

IV. Condemned in the strongest terms all terrorist activities and reaffirmed their firm commitment to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including its financing, the dismantling of terrorist infrastructure and countering radicalization, to ensure that Afghanistan would never become a safe haven for global terrorism.

V. Called for a collective cooperation against the menace of radicalization, extremism, separatism and drug trafficking in the region.

VI. Stressed the necessity of forming an open and truly inclusive government that represents the will of all the people of Afghanistan and has representation from all sections of their society, including major ethno-political forces in the country. Inclusion of all sections of the society in the administrative and political structure is imperative for the successful national reconciliation process in the country.

VII. Recalling the relevant UN Resolutions on Afghanistan, the participants noted that the United Nations has a central role to play in Afghanistan and that its continued presence in the country must be preserved.

VIII. Emphasized the importance of ensuring that the fundamental rights of women, children and minority communities are not violated.

IX. Expressed concern over the deteriorating socio-economic and humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, and underlined the need to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan.

X. Reiterated that humanitarian assistance should be provided in an unimpeded, direct and assured manner to Afghanistan and that the assistance is distributed within the country in a non-discriminatory manner across all sections of the Afghan society.

XI. Reiterated commitment to provide assistance to Afghanistan to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

XII. Reiterated the importance of their dialogue and agreed to remain engaged with each other in the future.

The participants thanked the Republic of India for holding the Third Regional Security Dialogue on Afghanistan in New Delhi. The participants agreed to hold the next round in 2022.