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Inaugural Address at 13th MP-IDSA SOUTH ASIA CONFERENCE

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  • Sujan R. Chinoy
    December 16, 2021

    Inaugural Address at 13th MP-IDSA SOUTH ASIA CONFERENCE
    Return of the Taliban in Afghanistan: Implications and Way Forward
    16-17 December 2021
    Ambassador Sujan R. Chinoy
    Director General, MP-IDSA
    16 December 2021

    Distinguished participants from different parts of world, friends and colleagues, ladies and gentlemen.

    It is an honour for us to host the 13th South Asian Conference. Unfortunately, it is being held online due to the constraints imposed on us by the pandemic. In better times, we hope to see you all in person, as in earlier years.

    Over the years this conference has acquired a unique stature as an important Track II initiative, bringing together academics, experts, policy makers, practitioners and media representatives to discuss issues of common interest and concern. This year, despite the webinar fatigue that we all experience, the response to our initiative from the region and beyond has been quite encouraging. I thank all the foreign participants who have accepted our invitation to participate and share their valuable insights.


    This year the theme we have chosen for discussion is “Return of the Taliban in Afghanistan: Implications and Way Forward”. We thought it appropriate to focus on this topic because it is an important regional development. Afghanistan stands at a new inflection point. Developments in Afghanistan have a broader ramification for the region and beyond.

    The return of the Taliban has been widely viewed as a defeat of the US and failure of the twenty-year-long international effort to bring democracy and peace to Afghanistan. The Taliban have claimed victory. Yet, there is no gainsaying that the US and its allies have shed much blood and treasure over the past two decades. Not all of that was in vain. The presence of foreign troops did contribute to security for minorities, women and children. Some new standards have been established in popular Afghan society on which it will be difficult even for the Taliban to turn the clock back. If we go by how much even Saudi Arabia has changed over the last two decades, it is not difficult to aver that even the Taliban will have to make adjustments and accept the new realities. Failure to do so would imperil the Taliban’s rule, perhaps lead to popular unrest in the future and most certainly deny the Taliban the full legitimacy they seek in the international community.

    Based on their initial pronouncements, many observers feel that the Taliban would be more moderate in their new avatar. For every such assessment, there is the counter view that the Taliban will return to their old ways of murder and mayhem backed by an anachronistic mind-set.

    Developments since the takeover have eroded confidence.

    The so-called interim government of the Taliban disregards the minorities, women and the democratic forces. The members of the Taliban cabinet are anything but moderate and are known offenders of human rights with a record of violence.

    The minority Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras, Nuristanis and Turkmens who together constitute more than half of the population account for only 10 out of the 53 ministries today and most of these are relatively unimportant ones. There is not a single woman on the list.

    The international community that was rooting for an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led system in Kabul is now clamouring for an inclusive government in Kabul.

    India is a stakeholder in Afghanistan’s destiny. We have no choice. Our historical ties with Afghanistan and geographical proximity put a special responsibility upon New Delhi.

    The Delhi Declaration on Afghanistan issued at the end of the meeting is broadly on anticipated lines. There are several elements that clearly draw upon the language of the UN Security Council Resolution 2593 of 30 August 2021, adopted under the rotational presidency of India. These cover condemnation of terrorist attacks, emphasis on preventing the use of Afghanistan’s territory for sheltering, training, planning or financing any terrorist acts, protecting the rights of women, children and minorities and providing humanitarian assistance.

    The newer elements in the Delhi Declaration pertain to call for collective cooperation against the menace of radicalisation, extremism, separatism and drug trafficking in the region. This is a remarkable common cause that was forged precisely because Pakistan was absent from the table. It is well-known that all the participating countries have been challenged by one or more of these scourges.

    With the Taliban now at the helm in Afghanistan for nearly three months, the most urgent task before the global community today is the provision of humanitarian assistance in an open and transparent manner. Afghanistan’s coffers are empty.

    It simply has no means to pay for any imports and the queues for daily necessities are growing longer. Under such circumstances, the rights of women, children and minorities are gravely imperilled.

    The return of UN and aid workers to Afghanistan will permit not just the monitoring of the distribution of food aid and other assistance, but may also help to check the excesses committed by zealots and criminals on vulnerable sections of society. It will be a daunting task to ensure their safety and security against the backdrop of mounting attacks by an irascible IS-K (Islamic State-Khorasan) which is viscerally opposed to the Taliban. It is an irony of history that a violent and radical regime is deemed by an even more violent and radical group to be inadequately violent and radical.

    For India, the situation in Afghanistan has major implications. The threat of a spill-over of malevolence radiating out of Afghanistan into Kashmir cannot be taken lightly. The Indian Army, no doubt, is fully capable of countering such threats. The priority, however, is to preserve the goodwill earned by India among the people of Afghanistan over years, through capacity-building and high-impact developmental projects at the cost of billions of dollars. This is reflected in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks at the G-20 Summit in October in which he alluded to the “friendship that the people of Afghanistan have for India”.

    Both at the G-20 Summit and the SCO Summit held in September, the Indian Prime Minister unequivocally indicated India’s readiness to deliver humanitarian assistance to “Afghan friends” in an unhindered manner. The silver lining is that the Taliban are open to the idea of Indian assistance. India, like others, is keen to ensure that assistance flows to the people of Afghanistan through the UN, without diversion by the regime towards its own ends. India has committed to provide 50,000 MT of wheat, essential life-saving medicines and COVID Vaccines to the Afghan people as humanitarian assistance.

    Hopefully, Pakistan will realise that it is its duty to facilitate such assistance by India to the Afghan people.

    Prime Minister Modi himself has given fresh impetus to the regional dialogue and efforts to build lasting peace and security in Afghanistan. While receiving the participants attending the Delhi meeting, he succinctly outlined four key aspects that require focus: The need for an inclusive government in Afghanistan; a zero-tolerance stance about Afghan territory being used by terrorist groups; a strategy to counter drugs and arms trafficking from Afghanistan; and, addressing the increasingly critical humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. A proactive approach has enabled India to actively contribute to the task of building a regional consensus on the future of Afghanistan.

    Today, no country in the world has yet accorded recognition to the Taliban regime, not even Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Pakistan who had recognised the Taliban regime in 1996. It is up to the Taliban to ensure that their regime becomes a responsible one in tune with the expectations of the Afghan people and the global community.

    I hope that the discussion that follows will deepen our understanding of the common challenges and provide suggestions on what the global community should do to ensure a better future for Afghan people.

    Thank you.

    Remarks at the Release of Special Issue of MP-IDSA Journal of Defence Studies on 1971 War
    Ambassador Sujan R. Chinoy
    Director General, MP-IDSA
    16 December 2021

    Ladies and Gentlemen, the commencement of this year’s South Asia Conference coincides with Vijay Diwas, that is, Victory Day. On this very day 50 years ago, India fought for a just and humanitarian cause, and defeated a state that was responsible for the reprehensible genocide of innocent Bengalis in erstwhile East Pakistan. The war not only led to a stunning and comprehensive defeat of Pakistan, it also saw the birth of a new nation—Bangladesh.

    The war represents one of the most significant events of the 20th century. It changed national boundaries, and this was achieved over the span of merely 13 days after the commencement of hostilities on part of Pakistan on 3 December 1971.

    The war had far-reaching strategic implications for India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. It gave a chance to India and Bangladesh to work together for the upliftment of the lives of the millions.  Then, as now, Pakistan had a chance to join the noble endeavour to bring peace and prosperity to South Asia. Regrettably, Pakistan chose a different path and sticks to it even today, with the use of unconventional means to disrupt the historical processes of peace and development that are before us. The use of terrorism, and support for radical groups, is the preferred means through which Pakistan seeks to interact with the rest of South Asia, particularly with India.  

    The 1971 war paved the way for the fullest realisation of the aspirations of the people of Bangladesh who had, until then, been artificially suppressed and denied equitable resources. The laudatory progress of Bangladesh in every sphere of socio-economic activity thereafter, as indicated by its human resource index, is a clear reflection of this reality. Bangladesh has set a new benchmark in many spheres for the rest of South Asia. We can learn from one another.

    This Special Issue of the Journal of Defence Studies focusses on the military aspects of the 1971 Indo-Pak War. As we are well aware, wars are not fought in isolation. Other aspects that had a profound impact on the war have also been covered in this issue.

    I do hope that you will enjoy reading this mega volume. May I take this opportunity to thank the Editorial Advisory Board of the Journal, the Deputy Director General, the JDS Editorial Committee, the Guest Editor and the Associate Editor for putting it together in time for Vijay Diwas.

    We will shortly also be bringing out a Special Issue of our flagship journal, Strategic Analysis, on a similar theme.

    It is with great satisfaction and pleasure that I now release the Special Issue of the Journal of Defence Studies titled “50 Years Later: 1971 India–Pakistan War”.

    Thank you.