India warns of ‘significant increase’ in terrorist presence in Afghanistan, expresses concern over well-being of women and girls

“We join others in calling for the protection of the rights of women and girls, and to ensure that the long-fought gains of the last two decades are not reversed”, the Indian representative said.

Arul Louis Aug 30, 2022
India's Permanent Representative at UN Ruchira Kamboj

India has warned of a significant increase in the presence of terrorist groups in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan and threats to other countries emanating from there, even as it revived a diplomatic presence in the capital Kabul but has stopped short of formal recognition.

“We need to see concrete progress in ensuring that such proscribed terrorists, entities, or their aliases do not get any support, tacit or direct, either from Afghan soil or from the terror sanctuaries based in the region”, India’s Permanent Representative Ruchira Kamboj told the UN Security Council on Monday.

India’s concerns about terrorist threats from Afghanistan were widely shared by participants at the Council meeting held on the eve of the anniversary of the US withdrawal from there.

Kamboj said that there was “a significant increase” in the presence of the Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISIL-K) group in Afghanistan and its “capacity to carry out attacks”.

The Islamic State affiliate “continues to issue threats of terrorist attacks on other countries”, she said.

Kamboj drew attention to the attack on a gurdwara in Kabul in June and the bomb explosion near it the next month, which she said were “hugely alarming”.

ISIS-K had claimed responsibility for the attack on the Sikh temple.

“The linkages between groups listed by the UN Security Council such as the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed as well as provocative statements made by other terrorist groups operating out of Afghanistan pose a direct threat to the peace and stability of the region”, she added.

Britain, France, the United States, Albania, Kenya and, even, China and Russia acknowledged the terrorism threats from Afghanistan.

The meeting was convened at the request of Russia, which, along with China, Iran and Pakistan, wanted the sanctions on the Taliban loosened.

They used the terrorism threat to make their case, asserting that engaging with the Taliban, lifting travel bans on their leaders and releasing the country’s frozen funds would pave the way for finding solutions to terrorism and other issues like women’s rights.

China’s Permanent Representative Zhang Jun said the US should “immediately return the frozen assets” – and Pakistan’s Permanent Representative Munir Akram duly echoed it. 

US Permanent Representative Linda Thomas-Greenfield countered: “No country that is serious about containing terrorism in Afghanistan would advocate giving the Taliban instantaneous, unconditional access to billions in assets that belong to the Afghan people”.

United Arab Emirates Permanent Representative Lana Zaki Nusseibeh said that the Council should use the tools available to it to make the Taliban combat terrorism.

Albania’s Permanent Representative Frid Hoxha noted that pervasive ties between the Taliban and international terrorist organisations continue, while Kenya’s Counsellor Gideon Kinuthia Ndung’u said that it should ensure that Afghanistan will not be a base for terrorist organisations like the  Islamic State and Al-Qaida to launch attacks. 

Russia, joined by China, Iran and Pakistan, blamed the US for the terrorism in Afghanistan.

Russia’s Permanent Representative Vasily Nebenzya said, “The US came to Afghanistan with a special mission – to fight against terrorism” but “in reality, their arrival to the country only strengthened its status as a hotbed of terrorism and a centre for the production and distribution of drugs”.

He and Zhun said that the US and other Western countries should make up for their mistakes in Afghanistan.

Kamboj said that India has sent Afghanistan 32 tonnes of medical assistance, which includes essential life-saving medicines, anti-TB medicines and 500,000 doses of Covid vaccine, and over 40,000 tonnes of wheat.

These were being distributed through the World Health Organisation and the UN's World Food Programme to ensure they reached the people.

In a statement last Saturday, the Afghan foreign ministry in Kabul said it "welcomes India's step to upgrade its diplomatic representation in Kabul." 

In June, India re-established its diplomatic presence in Kabul by deploying what it called a "technical team' "  - a euphemism for junior diplomats - in its embassy in the Afghan capital.

India had withdrawn its officials from the embassy after the Taliban seized power in August 2021 following concerns over their security. 

Kamboj also expressed “concern at developments in Afghanistan which directly impact the well-being of women and girls”. 

“We join others in calling for the protection of the rights of women and girls, and to ensure that the long-fought gains of the last two decades are not reversed”, the Indian representative said.

The Taliban has severely restricted employment, education and participation in public life by women. 

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