India is hosting the third security dialogue on Afghanistan in Delhi on Wednesday, called the “Delhi Regional Security Dialogue on Afghanistan”. The Taliban regime of Afghanistan though was not extended an invitation for the meeting. Sources said this is because India does not recognize Taliban. China was extended an invitation but could not make it due to “scheduling issues.” However, it’s the refusal of Pakistan to attend the dialogue that has elicited the sharpest response from government sources.

They called it unfortunate but not surprising that Pakistan refused to attend the dialogue. Another source said that the eight countries participating in the dialogue today were of the view that it’s actually Pakistan that is the real problem for Afghanistan.

The source also indicated that Pakistan is playing a double game with Taliban, with whom their proximity is now a public knowledge. The source said while Pakistan has a rapport with the Taliban, India is not convinced that Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence, ISI, doesn’t have links with the terror outfit ISKP. US claims that ISKP is opposed to the Taliban. And ISKP has been responsible for several blasts since the Taliban took over Afghanistan. The first and most prominent being the blast outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport when the evacuation by the US was still underway.

The dialogue is not expected to yield any formal security architecture, as per sources. However, the participating countries are in sync on the threats faced due to instability in Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover and they will discuss what should be done in future. The focus will be on terrorism, radicalization and extremism, cross-border movement, impact of drugs and trafficking as well as threats from the large amount of weapons and equipment left behind by the US forces.

The massive humanitarian crisis emerging due to stopping of aid to Afghanistan will also be discussed. Sources said, humanitarian aid is intrinsically linked to security and stability. There is difference of opinion on how best to deliver the aid under changed circumstances with the takeover by Taliban. So, the discussion could be around how much aid should be send, who should it be given to and what is the best mechanism to deliver this aid.

Here again, sources said, for India the quickest access to Afghanistan is through Pakistan. However, since Pakistan has blocked that access they should introspect whether or not they are concerned about the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. If they genuinely are, they should allow access.

Over the last one year, since the situation in Afghanistan started changing rapidly, India has been viewed as a fringe player in the conversations despite its heavy investment of over $ 3 billion over the last 20 years in Afghanistan. With the Delhi Dialogue India hopes to dispel this view. Sources believe that the participation of Russia, Iran and crucial central Asian countries speaks of the role India can play in Afghanistan even now.

They also point to Russia’s constant engagement with India over the last few months over Afghanistan to bolster the argument. The Russian NSA Nikolai Patrushev had travelled to meet his counterpart Ajit Doval in India in early September. He is now back to attend the dialogue and hold a bilateral meeting too within almost two month’s time.

It’s important to note that Russia still have a functional embassy in Kabul. It was one of the few countries that had announced initially itself that they will not shut down their embassy. This was when other countries including India were evacuating from Afghanistan in August. The Russian ambassador in Afghanistan had met the Taliban leaders within days of the takeover and described the meeting as friendly. However, sources claim that the eight participating countries were of the same view on the crucial issue of recognizing Taliban - they have neither recognised or legitimised Taliban nor are they contemplating the same right away.

A joint statement will be issued if all the participating countries – Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – arrive at a consensus. NSA Ajit Doval will also hold separate bilateral meetings on Wednesday most notably with his Russian and Iranian counterparts after the dialogue in the morning.