The role of India in the unfolding crisis in Afghanistan was in focus again as the G7 agreed to work together with partner countries in the region.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who chaired the virtual meeting on August 24 in the UK’s role as current president of the Group of Seven, revealed that the leaders had agreed a “roadmap” for future engagement with the Taliban. But the important role to be played by countries in the region and close partners such as India was once again in focus as the group seemed to have failed to persuade US President Joe Biden to extend the August 31 deadline for the US-led NATO troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“We will cooperate together, and with neighbouring and other countries in the region hosting refugees, on a coordinated approach to safe and legal routes for resettlement,” the joint statement reads.
Speaking just after the crisis meeting, Johnson declared that the G7’s “number one condition” was that the Taliban must guarantee “safe passage” for those that want to leave the country beyond that deadline. He also insisted that the G7 – made up of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States and the UK – had considerable leverage at its disposal.
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The UK PM said: "The number one condition we're setting as G7 is that they have got to guarantee, right the way through, through August 31 and beyond, safe passage for those who want to come out.
"Some will say that they don't accept that and some, I hope, will see the sense of that, because the G7 has very considerable leverage – economic, diplomatic and political."
Johnson, alongside France and Germany, was expected to push US President Joe Biden to focus on an extension of the deadline with the Taliban. However, American media reports indicate that Biden remains firm on the month-end timeline, even as the latest Taliban press conference from Kabul dismissed the prospect of an extension.
“Our immediate priority is to ensure the safe evacuation of our citizens and those Afghans who have partnered with us and assisted our efforts over the past 20 years, and to ensure continuing safe passage out of Afghanistan,” reads the G7 joint statement issued at the end of the virtual summit.
“We will continue to coordinate closely on this, and we expect all parties to continue to facilitate this, and to ensure the safety of humanitarian and medical personnel, and other international service providers. We will cooperate together, and with neighbouring and other countries in the region hosting refugees, on a coordinated approach to safe and legal routes for resettlement,” it reads.
The statement expresses “grave concern” about the situation in Afghanistan and calls for calm and restraint to ensure the safety and security of vulnerable Afghan and international citizens, and the prevention of a humanitarian crisis. It also calls for all parties to work towards an "inclusive and representative government" which will work to ensure regional stability.
“The Afghan people deserve to live in dignity, peace and security, reflecting the last two decades of their political, economic and social achievements, in particular for women and girls. Afghanistan must never again become a safe haven for terrorism, nor a source of terrorist attacks on others,” the statement notes.
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It adds: “We will judge the Afghan parties by their actions, not words. In particular, we reaffirm that the Taliban will be held accountable for their actions on preventing terrorism, on human rights in particular those of women, girls and minorities and on pursuing an inclusive political settlement in Afghanistan. The legitimacy of any future government depends on the approach it now takes to uphold its international obligations and commitments to ensure a stable Afghanistan.”
It comes soon after the UK government urged the Taliban to allow the safe and orderly departure of foreign nationals at an emergency United Nations Human Rights Council session. Lord Tariq Ahmad, UK Minister for Human Rights, South Asia and the Commonwealth, addressed the session virtually to underscore the UK’s commitment to protecting the human rights of the Afghan people amid the Taliban takeover of the country.
He said: “We urge the Taliban to allow the safe and orderly departure of foreign nationals, and those who wish to leave Afghanistan.
“The Taliban need to make a political decision to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms. And they must understand that they will be held accountable if they do fail to do so. We also call for a coordinated and concerted effort from the international community to address the humanitarian emergency, which has been exacerbated by famine, COVID and internal displacement.”
Last week the UK supported a UN Security Council statement which called for all parties to allow immediate, safe and unhindered humanitarian access for humanitarian agencies and actors providing assistance in Afghanistan.