At UNSC, India calls for immediate ceasefire in Afghanistan

India has told the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) that it calls for an “immediate comprehensive ceasefire” in Afghanistan, while welcoming all opportunities to bring peace to the country.

Also read: Another Afghan peace push and a role for India

India’s position was articulated by its Permanent Representative to the United Nations, T.S. Tirumurti, at a UNSC meeting on Friday, convened under the Arria Formula (informally convened at the request of a UNSC member). Current and incoming members of the UNSC spoke on how the Council could support the Afghan peace process.

Also read: India has joined Afghan peace process at the right time, should engage Taliban directly: Hamid Karzai

The timing of the remarks is significant as India is weeks away from beginning a two-year term at the Council and comes days after U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement this week that he would dramatically cut the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan by January 15, an act that could potentially jeopardise the fragile peace process underway in the country.

“For durable peace in Afghanistan, we have to put an end to terrorist safe havens and sanctuaries operating across the Durand Line,” Mr. Tirumurti said, in a reference to Pakistan.

India has been concerned that the Afghan peace process and premature withdrawal of NATO/ U.S. coalition forces could leave opportunities for terrorist networks that could target both Afghanistan and India. “The report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team under the Al-Qaeda/Da’esh Sanctions Committee has also highlighted the presence of foreign fighters in Afghanistan. For violence to end in Afghanistan, these terrorist supply chains must be broken,” Mr. Tirumurti said, asking the Security Council to speak “unequivocally against violence” and act against terrorist sanctuaries and safe havens.

Speaking at the meeting, Afghanistan’s President, Ashraf Ghani said, “Together with our international partners and friends, we have paid a heavy cost for peace, and taken serious risks, but we have seen no dividends yet. The threat of terrorism has not been eliminated. As recently as May of this year, the UN issued a report providing evidence that despite assurances from the Taliban to the United States, Al Qaeda is still present and active in Afghanistan, harboured by the Taliban.”

Mr Tirumurti also described India’s reconstruction and development assistance to Afghanistan since over the last nearly two decades.

“It is a testimony to our unwavering resolve to Afghanistan’s peace and stability that we have invested both with sweat and blood for the development of Afghanistan,” he said.

Mr Tirumurti outlined four requirements for peace and stability in Afghanistan. First, the process had to be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned. Second, there must be zero tolerance for terrorism. Third, the gains of the last two decades cannot be lost.

“In particular, India is convinced that the rights of women need to be strongly protected…the rights of the minorities and the vulnerable need to be safeguarded,” Mr Tirumurti said.

Fourth, the transit rights of Afghanistan should not be used by countries “to extract [a] political price from Afghanistan,” Mr Tirumurti said — a reference to Pakistan obstructing the flow of persons and materials outside of Afghanistan, impacting, for instance, India-Afghanistan trade.

Mr. Tirumurti assured Afghanistan of India’s support in its quest for peace during India’s UNSC term.

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