Taliban fighters on a street in Kabul (AFP)
NEW DELHI: China and Pakistan will be missing when the national security chiefs of seven key regional countries gather here on Wednesday for a security dialogue on Afghanistan.
The day-long event, the first being hosted by India, will focus on terrorism and related security challenges and uncertainties emerging from Afghanistan which was taken over by the Taliban in August.
Pakistan refused to come because of India. China, however, qualified its response. Citing its inability to attend due to “scheduling issues”, Beijing said that they would like to engage India bilaterally on Afghanistan. The Indian government is refraining from clubbing the two refusals, though sources said China’s response may be due to its Pakistan sensitivities. “We were keen on China’s participation,” sources said.
The meeting will focus on terrorism, within Afghanistan and across borders: the growth of radicalisation and extremism that might spread from Afghanistan, either by the Taliban and Haqqani network, or IS-K, or just by the power of demonstration to influence populations in all the participating countries.
Cross-border movement is another area of concern. A new challenge that faces the region is the threat emanating from the military equipment and weapons left behind by the US troops in Afghanistan. There is apprehension that these could be used to fuel terrorism or feed organised crime networks in the region.
The dialogue, sources said, was not new. The first of these was held in Iran in 2018 with five countries — India, Russia, Afghanistan, China and Iran. Pakistan was invited, but refused to join. Iran held the second one in 2019. No invitation has been sent to Afghanistan — not to the Taliban or even the previous government. “None of the participating countries raised the issue of invitation to the Taliban,” sources said.
Indian planners reckon that the biggest “deliverable” from the meeting would be a common understanding of the threats faced by the uncertainty in Afghanistan. “We believe there is a high degree of convergence of their sense of threat and ours,” sources said. The dialogue is unlikely to lead to a new security architecture but the Indian side hopes it can evolve into one.