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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

At UN, India offers support to Afghanistan but doesn’t pledge money

NEW DELHI: Asserting India will stand with the Afghan people, foreign minister, S Jaishankar said it was essential that humanitarian assistance providers are accorded unimpeded, unrestricted and direct access to Afghanistan that would include regular commercial air operations.
Addressing the UN high-level meeting on the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan on Monday, the minister said the recent UNSC resolution 2593 that calls for Afghan soil not being used for terrorism and stresses the need for combating it within Afghanistan itself should “guide” the international community.
India did not pledge any money to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, probably the first time in 20 years that it has not done so even as Jaishankar detailed India’s assistance and development aid to Afghanistan ranging from fortified protein biscuits to infrastructure and capacity building.

“As an immediate neighbour, India is monitoring developments in Afghanistan with ‘understandable concerns’,” Jaishankar said and 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.
Even as a recent UNDP report indicates 72% to 97% 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. Until the Taliban takeover in mid August, India had a developmental presence in all 34 provinces of the country.
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 and therefore it is crucial that aid organisations can act freely and safely.” This seemed the overriding theme — the demand that unimpeded access to Afghanistan be restored with people being allowed to 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.

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