Amid Afghan crisis, S Jaishankar to return to India and not travel to Mexico, Panama and Guyana

New York: External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar will return to India on Friday and not travel onwards to Mexico, Panama and Guyana in view of the developments in Afghanistan, sources said.

India on Tuesday rushed back home its ambassador Rudrendra Tandon and staff from the embassy in Kabul in a military transport aircraft following escalating tension, fear and uncertainty gripping the Afghan capital after the Taliban seized the Afghan capital on Sunday.

Mr Jaishankar arrived in New York on Monday to chair meetings in the UN Security Council on technology and peacekeeping and on counter-terrorism under India's current presidency of the Council.

On Thursday, before he departs for India, he will chair the high-level event on counter-terrorism during which the Council will discuss the Secretary General's six-monthly report on the threat posed by ISIS/Da'esh, under the agenda item 'Threats to International Peace and Security caused by Terrorist Acts'.

Sources told news agency Press Trust of India that given the developments relating to Afghanistan, Mr Jaishankar will return to India sooner and not travel to Mexico, Panama and Guyana. The Ministry of External Affairs has not officially announced the minister's visits to the three countries.

During his visit, he held bilateral meetings and discussions with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and other foreign ministers, with particular focus on the situation in Afghanistan.

On Wednesday, after chairing the UNSC open debate on peacekeeping, Mr Jaishankar, speaking to reporters at the Security Council stakeout said India is closely following the developments in Afghanistan.

"At the moment we are, like everybody else, very carefully following developments in Afghanistan. I think our focus is on ensuring the security in Afghanistan and the safe return of Indian nationals who are there," Mr Jaishankar said in response to a question.

"That is really what has been very much the focus of my own engagements here, talking to the UN Secretary-General and other colleagues who are here as well as the US Secretary of State."

In response to another question on India's investments in Afghanistan over the last two decades and whether New Delhi will be engaged in Afghanistan that now has a Taliban government, he said "you use the word investment. I mean, for us, it reflected what was a historical relationship with the Afghan people.

"I think that relationship with the Afghan people obviously continues and that will guide our approach to Afghanistan in the coming days. At this time, as I said, these are early days. Our focus right now is on ensuring the safety and security of Indian nationals who are there."

In response to a question on whether India has had any communication with the Taliban in recent days, he said "at this point of time, we are looking at what is the evolving situation in Kabul. Obviously, the Taliban and its representatives have come to Kabul so I think we need to take it on from there."

Mr Jaishankar also discussed the "latest developments" in Afghanistan with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and "underlined the urgency of restoring airport operations in Kabul. Deeply appreciate the American efforts underway in this regard."

Following his meeting with Guterres in the UN headquarters Tuesday, Mr Jaishankar had tweeted "Good to meet UN Secretary-General @antonioguterres. Our discussions focused on Afghanistan, following upon the Security Council meeting yesterday."

He also met Estonia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Eva-Maria Liimets and as "UNSC members, discussed our working together on maritime and cyber security and other global issues. Exchanged views on the developments in Afghanistan. Look forward to her presence at the Council meeting tomorrow."

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that Secretary Blinken spoke with Foreign Minister Jaishankar "about Afghanistan and the developing situation there."

Mr Jaishankar said he also discussed the evolving situation in Afghanistan with French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian.

"We will continue to coordinate in the UN Security Council. Thank him for evacuating 21 Indian nationals from Kabul to Paris," he said.