‘Indian Friends of Afghanistan,’ a group comprising former foreign ministers, ex-diplomats and public intellectuals, said they stood “shoulder to shoulder with the people of Afghanistan in these difficult times.”
NEW DELHI — Expressing deep concern over the situation in Afghanistan. ‘Indian Friends of Afghanistan’, a group comprising former foreign ministers, ex-diplomats and public intellectuals urged New Delhi, in an appeal released on Wednesday, to prevent the use of the Afghan crisis for communal polarisation in India to win elections.
Addressed to the Government of India, the international community and the Taliban, the signatories of the appeal said they stood “shoulder to shoulder with the people of Afghanistan in these difficult times”.
Signed by former foreign ministers Natwar Singh and Yashwant Sinha, former diplomats Mani Shankar Aiyar, K. C. Singh and a clutch of well-regarded public intellectuals, the letter said that no political party should be allowed to use the development in Afghanistan to communally polarise society for electoral gains.
According to a media report, the letter was co-signed by 11 individuals — including former police officer Julio Ribeiro, former Delhi lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung, former diplomat K.C. Singh and former Rajya Sabha MP Majeed Memon.
“We welcome the complete withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. However, the unplanned manner of its execution created conditions of avoidable chaos,” the group said in a statement.
Standing in solidarity “with our Afghan sisters and brothers”, the group urged all countries in South Asia to come together to help stabilise Afghanistan.
“All the countries in South Asia — especially India, Pakistan and Afghanistan — should strive to make it a region of peace, harmony and collective progress.”
Appealing to the Taliban, the group said: “Afghanistan needs an inclusive government that facilitates national reconciliation after four long decades of wars and violence. Therefore, we appeal to the Taliban (which are in near-total control of the country) and other political forces to begin an intra-Afghan peace process leading to a democratic governing establishment.”
The group spoke for the safety and security of every Afghan citizen regardless of their ethnicity, ideology or past political background, and pressed for guarantees for the safety and rights of women.
Ethnic minorities should be protected and their return should be facilitated if they were compelled to leave the country.
Addressing international community the group said: “All members of the international community should together shoulder the responsibility of rebuilding Afghanistan’s war-damaged economy and creating livelihoods for its people,” the group said. “Multilateral regional forums such as SCO (in which both India and Pakistan are members) and SAARC (of which Afghanistan is also a member) should actively work for peace in Afghanistan and stability in South Asia and Central Asia.”
India, the group said, should continue to engage with the Taliban to achieve the objectives set out in its appeal. “We welcome the government’s first official acknowledgement of its engagement with the Taliban in Doha and the positive assurances given by the latter.”
In an implied criticism of the Indian government’s emphasis on safety of non-Muslim Afghans, the group said: “There should be no discrimination on grounds of religion in providing shelter to Afghans who have been forced to leave their country.”
Following the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul, TV channels in India have been busy in promoting religious tensions.
“No political party should be allowed to use the developments in Afghanistan to communally polarise Indian society for electoral gains and any such attempts should be dealt with sternly,” the group urged.