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India to focus sharply on Pak interference in Afghanistan during SCO summit

A file image of External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (Image courtesy: MFA Russia)

India is set to focus sharply on Pakistan's interference in Afghanistan – a move that is likely to be endorsed by Iran and Russia during the upcoming SCO summit in Dushanbe on September 16-17.

Host Tajikistan is already incensed by Pakistan-backed Taliban's takeover of Kabul – a development that Dushanbe sees as an encouragement to the revival of an Islamist insurgency at home.

The Iranians have also been stunned by the brazen Pakistani interference, personally marshalled by ISI chief Faiz Hameed, against the anti-Taliban revolt in the Panjshir valley, including the use of drones and helicopters.

Also Read: Panjshir attack pits Iran against Pakistan’s ISI, changes regional equations

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, who will be travelling to Tajikistan, will also be holding key meetings with the SCO member states on the developing situation in Afghanistan during the two-day event which also includes the Afghan Contact Group meet.

Sources say that Iran's new Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian will be meeting Jaishankar in Dushanbe to discuss the way forward on Afghanistan and how peace can be achieved in the war-torn country through the formation of an inclusive government with the participation of all Afghan groups.

Last week, while congratulating Abdollahian on his appointment as Iran's Foreign Minister, Jaishankar had emphasised the importance of expanding ties between both the countries. Abdollahian called for speeding up the Chabahar Project and expanding trade with India and also spoke on Afghanistan.

"The international community, including regional nations, must join hands to defuse the crisis in Afghanistan," the top Iranian diplomat was quoted as saying by his ministry during the phone call with Jaishankar.

Afghanistan Iran

Tehran has repeatedly underlined the need to end the ordeal of the Afghan people and also "strongly condemned" on Monday the "foreign interference" in Afghanistan after reports of Pakistan's deep involvement in targeting Panjshir valley – the ground zero of the anti-Taliban resistance.

Both Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who will also address the SCO virtually, and Jaishankar are expected to underscore the SCO's main goal of strengthening mutual trust and neighbourliness among the member states besides making joint efforts to maintain and ensure peace, security and stability in the region.

The SCO meeting happens at a crucial time with PM Modi scheduled to visit the United States later this month. During the all-important and much-awaited US visit, the Indian Prime Minister is not only expected to address the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and meet the US President Joe Biden in Washington but also attend the first 'in-person' QUAD Leaders' Summit.

The SCO comprises eight member states, including India, Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan.

Iran, Afghanistan, Belarus and Mongolia are the four observer states while Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, Nepal, Turkey, and Sri Lanka are the six dialogue partners.

Also Read: Iran breaks silence on rampaging Taliban, condemns Pakistan for the Panjshir blood bath