External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar (4L) with the Foreign Ministers of Central Asian countries in a group photo at the third meeting of the two-day India-Central Asia Dialogue, in New Delhi. Photo:ANI
New Delhi: Foreign ministers of India and five Central Asian countries on Sunday called for immediate humanitarian aid to Afghan people, renewed the demand for a "truly inclusive" government in Kabul and asserted that Afghan territory must not be used for sheltering, training, planning or financing terrorist activities.
At the third India-Central Asia Dialogue in Delhi, the ministers reiterated strong support for a peaceful, secure and stable Afghanistan while emphasising the need for respecting its sovereignty, unity, territorial integrity and ensuring non-interference in its internal affairs, seen as an indirect message to Pakistan.
The need for respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity in rolling out connectivity projects, increasing the importance of the Chabahar port for boosting regional trade, mutual recognition of vaccine certification and establishment of long-term ties between Central Asia and India were among a range of broad consensus that emerged from the dialogue.
The dialogue, hosted by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, was attended by his counterparts from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
A joint statement said the ministers also pressed for "concerted action" against all terrorist groups and said that providing safe havens to terror groups, use of terrorist proxies for cross-border terrorism, terror financing and dissemination of a radical ideology go against the basic principles of humanity and international relations.
The mentioning of terrorist proxies for cross-border terrorism in a joint statement released at the end of the dialogue is also seen as an oblique reference to Pakistan that has been supporting various terror groups targeting India.
Voicing serious concern over the threat of terrorism, the ministers stressed that perpetrators, organisers, financiers and sponsors of terrorist acts must be held accountable and brought to justice in accordance with the principle of "extradite or prosecute".
In his opening remarks, Jaishankar said India will be a "steadfast partner" of the Central Asian region.
"We already have a good history of cooperation. But my message to you today is a readiness to take it to the next level. Our ties must now focus around 4 Cs: Commerce, Capacity enhancement, Connectivity and Contacts," he said.
In the joint statement, the ministers emphasised that the establishment of long-term relations between Central Asia and India is aimed at enhancing regional peace, security, stability, sustainable economic growth and prosperity in the region.
Referring to regional connectivity initiatives, they asserted that such projects should be based on the principles of transparency, broad participation, local priorities, financial sustainability and respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries, according to a joint statement.
The comments came in the backdrop of growing criticism against China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
On the Afghan crisis, the ministers noted the emergence of a broad 'regional consensus' that includes the formation of a truly representative and inclusive government, combating terrorism and drug trafficking, the central role of the UN, providing immediate humanitarian assistance for the Afghan people and preserving the rights of women, children and other national ethnic groups.
The ministers reiterated strong support for a peaceful, secure and stable Afghanistan while emphasising the need for respecting sovereignty, unity, territorial integrity and non-interference in its internal affairs.
They also discussed the current humanitarian situation and decided to continue to provide immediate humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people.
"The ministers reaffirmed the importance of UNSC Resolution 2593 which unequivocally demands that Afghan territory not be used for sheltering, training, planning or financing terrorist acts and called for concerted action against all terrorist groups," the joint statement said.
It said ministers also agreed to continue close consultations on the situation in Afghanistan, adding they also noted the outcome document of the Delhi Regional Security Dialogue on Afghanistan, held on November 10.
The meeting coincided with a conference organised in Islamabad by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on the Afghan issue.
On the COVID-19 pandemic, the ministers called for continued cooperation through sharing of vaccine doses, transfer of technology, development of local production capacities, promotion of supply chains for medical products, and ensuring price transparency.
The foreign ministers of Kazakhstan and the Kyrgyz Republic welcomed the mutual recognition of COVID-19 vaccination certificates between India and the two countries while their counterparts from Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan looked forward to early mutual recognition of certification with India.
Delving into connectivity projects, they also welcomed the proposal to include Chabahar port within the framework of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) and expressed interest in cooperation on issues related to the development and strengthening of regional connectivity in Central and South Asia.
The ministers emphasised on optimum usage of the INSTC as well as Ashgabat Agreement on International Transport and Transit Corridor to enhance connectivity between India and the Central Asian countries," the statement said.
On overall cooperation, they welcomed the signing of MoUs for implementation of High Impact Community Development Projects (HICDPs) for socio-economic development in the Central Asian region based on grant assistance by India.
"They noted the ongoing discussions with regard to utilisation of USD 1 bn Line of Credit announced last year for infrastructure development projects in Central Asian countries and mandated their senior officials to make efforts for early progress in this regard," the statement said.
Referring to terrorism, the ministers condemned it in all its forms and called for the early adoption of the UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.
They called on the international community to strengthen UN-led global counter-terrorism cooperation and fully implement the relevant UNSC resolutions, Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and FATF standards.
In his remarks, External Affairs Minister Jaishankar pitched for finding ways to help the Afghan people and noted that all six countries share deep-rooted historical and civilizational ties with Afghanistan
"Our concerns and objectives in that country are similar: a truly inclusive and representative government, the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking ensuring unhindered humanitarian assistance and preserving the rights of women, children and the minorities. We must find ways of helping the people of Afghanistan," he said.