India hosts talks on current Afghanistan situation without Afghan representative in attendance

India is hosting senior security officials from Russia, Iran and five Central Asian countries to discuss the situation in Afghanistan, but without an Afghan representative in attendance.

Pakistan and China declined to attend the Delhi Regional Security Dialogue on Afghanistan held on Wednesday following the fall of the United States-backed government and the Taliban takeover of the country.

India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval had invited security chiefs from Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan for the talks.

“This is a time for close consultation among us,” Doval said in opening remarks before the meeting. He said he hoped the deliberations will help the people of Afghanistan and enhance the region’s collective security.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement the meeting will address “the relevant security challenges and support the people of Afghanistan in promoting peace, security and stability”.

Pakistan’s National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf last week called India a “spoiler” and not a “peacemaker” in Afghanistan.

India’s MEA officials said Pakistan’s refusal to attend the meeting was “unfortunate, but not surprising” and “reflects its mindset of viewing Afghanistan as its protectorate”.

The meeting underscores India’s attempts to protect its strategic interests in Afghanistan amid Pakistan’s growing influence in the region.

Archrivals India and Pakistan have long tried to wield influence over Afghanistan to meet their security interests.

India’s leaders fear the Taliban rise to power will benefit Pakistan and feed a long-simmering rebellion in Indian-administered Kashmir.

When asked why no representative from Afghanistan has been invited, he said: “The trouble is if you invite a representative from the Taliban government in Kabul, then in essence you will be according it recognition, in some ways, acknowledging that government which India doesn’t want at this moment in time.”

New Delhi’s relations with Afghanistan are in suspended animation. It has no diplomatic presence left in Kabul after it evacuated its staff before the final US withdrawal from Afghanistan.