New Delhi: It was a sort of nightmarish overseas trip of an over-ambitious Prime Minister. Having shed his cricket icon image, Imran Khan was confused and isolated on Friday (September 17), making impatient pleas for 'incentives' for the Taliban's terror regime in Afghanistan.
In his remarks at the SCO-CSTO Outreach Summit on Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said there should be norms based on the principle of "zero-tolerance towards terrorism". "These should be a Code of Conduct to prevent activities like Cross-Border terrorism and terror financing …. If instability and fundamentalism persist in Afghanistan, it will encourage terrorist and extremist ideologies all over the world," Modi said. He further cautioned in explicit and strong language – "Other extremist groups may also be encouraged to come to power through violence. All our countries have been the victims of terrorism in the past."
Of course, the Summit was attended virtually by Presidents of Russia and China – Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping -and Imran Khan himself, who, unlike others, flew to Dushanbe pleading for 'funds and stability' for Afghanistan.
If Modi's articulate statement was not enough earlier in the day, new Iranian President Ayatollah Raisi told him during a bilateral meeting: "We should try to help Afghanistan form a Govt that includes all groups based on the will of the people. The key to solving Afghanistan's problems is to form an inclusive government and prevent foreign interference in the country's affairs."
Needless to add, Pakistan's covert and overt 'interference' into Afghanistan's affairs is now a proverbial open secret. Several Congress lawmakers grilled US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in America on Pakistan's double-tongued games for the last many years.
Even the Dushanbe Declaration adopted on Friday was crystal clear and echoed the lines of PM Modi and the Iranian President. "Member States believe that it is critical to have an inclusive Government in Afghanistan, with representatives from all ethnic, religious and political groups of Afghan society," it said.
Tajikistan, which hosted the SCO Summit, is generally seen as opposed to the Taliban. Tajiks form the second largest minority in Afghanistan and are uncomfortable in a Pashtun-dominated arrangement under radical Taliban.
PM Modi also said: "…. together, we should ensure that the territory of Afghanistan is not used to spread terrorism in any other country. SCO member countries develop strict and agreed norms on this subject. In the future, these norms can then become a template for global anti-terror cooperation."
Of course, the Chinese President urged "relevant parties" in Afghanistan to eradicate terrorism, but he promised to help the war-torn nation. Even Xi sensed the mood of the Summit well and remarked that Afghanistan should be guided to be more open and inclusive and pursue "moderate" domestic and foreign policies.
However, speaking via video link, Russian President Putin said Moscow supported a United Nations conference on Afghanistan, and that world powers should consider 'unfreezing' Afghanistan's assets. But Russia also said it would be premature to 'recognise' the Taliban.
In an interview with TASS, Russian Special Presidential Envoy for SCO, Bakhtiyer Khakimov had explained: "At this stage, all member states understand that there are no reasons for an invitation until there is a legitimate, generally recognised government in Afghanistan."
The only 'concession' for Imran Khan has been that many leaders and important stakeholders concurred with Pakistan that the war-ravaged Afghanistan should not be abandoned.
PM Modi also said the developments in Afghanistan has led to the "uncontrolled flow of drugs, illegal weapons and human trafficking". "A large number of advanced weapons remain in Afghanistan. Due to these, there will be a risk of instability in the entire region. The RATS mechanism of SCO can play a constructive role in monitoring these flows and enhancing information-sharing," he said.
Modi said: "From this month, India is chairing the Council of SCO-RATS. We have developed proposals for practical cooperation on this subject."
The SCO-RATS is short for the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure headquartered at Tashkent in Uzbekistan.