Modi govt should give shelter to Afghans irrespective of their religion, they say

A group of eleven eminent personalities from India has urged Taliban to give protection to the Hindus, Sikhs and other non-Muslim minorities in Afghanistan and facilitate the dignified return of those who were forced to leave their country.

In a letter addressing to the Taliban, international community and the government of India, former Union ministers Natwar Singh, Yashwant Sinha, Mani Shankar Aiyar and eight others appealed to the militant group to ensure that no terrorist organisation has a sanctuary in Afghanistan and that its territory is not used for terrorist and extremist activities targeting any country in the world.

They urged Taliban to guarantee the safety, dignity and rights of women and to safeguard and continue the developmental projects undertaken by India in Afghanistan.

Top Police Officer Julio Rebeiro, Former Lt. Governor of Delhi Najeeb Jung, noted writers Dr Vedpratap Vaidik and Saeed Naqvi, India’s former ambassador to Iran and UAE K.C. Singh, social activist Sandeep Pandey, Supreme Court lawyer Majeed Memon and Forum for a New South Asia founder Sudheendra Kulkarni are the other signatories of the letter written under the banner of ‘Indian Friends of Afghanistan’.

The group appealed to the international community to ensure that “no country in the region should be excluded from, nor isolate itself from, collaborative efforts to bring peace in Afghanistan and promote national reconciliation and national reconstruction.” This requires India, Pakistan, China, Russia, Iran and other countries to evolve and implement a common strategy, in cooperation with the United Nations, USA, EU and other members of the international community, it said.

It noted that providing humanitarian aid and assistance to Afghanistan is an immediate and common responsibility of the international community.

“All members of the international community should together shoulder the responsibility of rebuilding Afghanistan’s war-damaged economy and creating livelihoods for its people,” it said.

It further said that multilateral regional forums such as SCO (in which both India and Pakistan are members) and SAARC (of which Afghanistan is also a member) should actively work for peace in Afghanistan and stability in South Asia and Central Asia.

The signatories urged the Indian government to continue to engage with the Taliban. “We welcome the government’s first official acknowledgement of its engagement with the Taliban in Doha and the positive assurances given by the latter,” they said.

There should be no discrimination on grounds of religion in providing shelter to Afghans who have been forced to leave their country, the group said, adding that India should permit temporary stay to Afghan journalists, artists and civil society leaders who are feeling threatened by the conditions in their country.

It said no political party should be allowed to use the developments in Afghanistan to communally polarise Indian society for electoral gains and any such attempts should be dealt with sternly.