Why China and Pakistan's decision to not attend NSA-level meet sends a wrong message
The Ajit Doval-led meeting on 10 November in New Delhi will discuss all issues pertaining to security situation in Afghanistan and steps to ensure stability in the Taliban-ruled country
India is gearing up for its Regional Security Dialogue, which will see the national security advisers of seven nations — Iran, Russia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan — discussing the situation in Afghanistan on 10 November.
The meeting, a first since the Taliban took over, will be held at the level of National Security Advisors (NSAs) and will be chaired by NSA Ajit Doval. Earlier meetings of this format were held in Iran in September 2018 and December 2019.
Pakistan and China, who were also invited, have declined the invitation.
So, what happened and why have the two countries’ refused to attend the meet.
The Delhi Regional Security Dialogue on Afghanistan is scheduled for 10 November and will be attended by top security officials from seven countries, including Iran, Russia and all five Central Asian nations.
The meeting is being held just two months after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan.
News agency PTI reported, according to the sources, this is the first time that all Central Asian countries, rather than simply Afghanistan's near land neighbours, are participating in this format.
Agenda of the meet
Issues pertaining to the security situation in Afghanistan will be the core issue discussed at the meeting.
The Ministry of External Affairs in a statement outlined the focus of the meeting, saying, "The high-level dialogue will review the security situation in the region arising from recent developments in Afghanistan. It will deliberate upon measures to address the relevant security challenges and support the people of Afghanistan in promoting peace, security and stability."
A News18 report, citing sources, added that the key agenda of the conference would be: challenges in a post-Taliban regime, stability of Afghanistan and recognition to be given to the current dispensation.
The NSA meet will focus on United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2593, which emphasises no spill-over of radicalisation and terror from Afghanistan and was passed under India’s presidency of UNSC.
China, Pakistan decline
On 2 November, Pakistan National Security Advisor Moeed Yusuf, while addressing a press conference in Islamabad along with the Uzbekistan NSA, said: “I will not go, a spoiler can’t be a peacemaker," in response to a question on whether Islamabad would attend India's meet.
Yusuf said: “I think the region’s obstacles are in front of you, there is no need for debate on this. On one hand is India… unfortunately (because of) the government’s behaviour and ideology there, I don’t see how this (peace) process will move forward — not just for Pakistan but the region.”
“The world has unfortunately kept its eyes closed and isn’t talking to India as it should,” he said.
Government sources, according to Times of India, said that Yusuf's 'spoiler' remark was an unsuccessful attempt to deflect attention from its pernicious role in Afghanistan.
"Pakistan has indicated through the media that it will not attend. Pakistan's decision is unfortunate, but not surprising. It reflects its mindset of viewing Afghanistan as its protectorate," a government official was quoted as saying.
China, too is expected not to attend the conference, citing 'scheduling issues'.
Beijing, however, has said that it remains open to maintaining discussions with India through bilateral channels.
It is interesting to note here that China had participated in similar meetings, which had been held in 2018 and 2019. Pakistan had not attended either.
It’s not difficult to understand the message that both these countries are sending out by declining to attend the meet in New Delhi.
Both countries — China and Pakistan — have extended a hand to the Taliban after they have taken over Afghanistan.
The Taliban takeover has been perceived as a positive development by policy and military circles in Islamabad. In an Al-Jazeera report, it was reported that Pakistan's attitude has been: “We are happy because with the Taliban in power, our western borders will be secured as arch rival India will be out of the game.”
Moreover, Pakistan has always lent a hand to the Taliban — by providing safe havens to Taliban fighters during the US-led operations.
Pakistan has also been actively campaigning to the world to campaign with the Taliban. In his United Nations General Assembly address, Prime Minister Imran Khan had urged the world community to support the Taliban government and help the country with much-needed humanitarian aid.
China on 16 August had said that it was ready to develop further relations with Afghanistan, an indication of things to come.
While other countries are still deciding on recognising Taliban as official rulers of Kabul, China already pledged $31 million worth of assistance. It also slammed other countries, especially the United States for freezing Afghan assets, for not extending aid to the war-torn country.
Experts note that Beijing is eyeing the untapped mineral resources in Afghanistan, which are estimated to have a value of $1 to $3 trillion.
Major General Harsha Kakar (retired) in an article said that Pakistan’s refusal to attend the meet has shown its duplicity. Also, it has shown to the world that Islamabad as emerged as a key obstruction to the flow of humanitarian aid to Afghans.
It is left to be seen what exactly takes place at the NSA-level meet, but the message for now is: instability in Kabul is a major concern.
With inputs from agencies
For the first time in over 75 years not only are there no Indian advisors in Afghanistan, there are now Pakistani advisors in their stead. This alone may be worth the price that Pakistan will continue to pay for its victory in Afghanistan
Aid groups and international agencies estimate about 23 million people, more than half the country, face severe hunger and nearly 9 million are on the brink of starvation
Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan last year, the hardline Islamists have banned music at weddings, beheaded mannequins and called upon Afghanistan TV channels to stop casting women