Concerned over growing threats of terrorism and extremism emanating from Afghanistan's Taliban-held areas, India and Russia today agreed to step up cooperation to deal with the menace having a bearing on the national interests and security of the two countries.
The two sides also denounced the militia decision to have separate dress code for Hindus and Sikhs terming it as "cultural terrorism", a statement issued after the second meeting of the Indo-Russian Joint Working Group (JWG) on Afghanistan here said.
Foreign Secretary Chokila Iyer, who led the Indian side at the consultations, told reporters that the two countries wanted the Taliban regime to respect the demands of international community and end its support to international terrorism and drug trade and strictly observe fundamental human rights, including the rights of women and minorities.
She said the meeting took serious view of the threats emanating from Afghanistan that have a direct bearing on the national interests and national security of India and Russia. Reaffirming their mutual adherence to the cause of ensuring unity, territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty of Afghanistan, the two sides asserted that there is no military solution to the internal Afghan conflict and it could only be resolved by political means through formation of a broad-based multi-ethnic government in the country.
"The key to the lasting solution in Afghanistan is in the hands of Afghans," the Indian Foreign Secretary stressed. She also denied reports in a section of Russian media about Indian military assistance to anti-Taliban northern alliance.
"We are rendering only humanitarian assistance to all the Afghans, who need such assistance," Iyer said. The two countries also called up all the countries to "inviolately" honour the anti-Taliban UN Security Council resolutions and speed up the formation of monitoring mechanism for their implementation. To a question, Iyer said India and Russia have effective mechanism to implement UN resolutions on Afghanistan.
Iyer noted that the creation of the JWG was one of the key decisions taken by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Russian President Valadimir Putin at their New Delhi summit last October.
The Working Group, co-chaired by Russia's First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov, had held its first meeting in New Delhi last November. Its third meeting is to be held again in New Delhi later this year. Noting that Taliban-held areas in Afghanistan had become nerve centres and breeding ground for terrorists and separatist forces, narcotics and extremist elements, the joint statement said these posed real danger to regional and international peace and stability.
The two sides agreed that the existing stockpiles of processed drugs in the Taliban custody needed to be destroyed immediately. They emphasised the need for all countries to honour the UN Security Council resolutions imposing sanctions on the Taliban regime.
Without naming Pakistan, the two countries called on all countries which provided extensive assistance, including military assistance, to the Taliban, to cease their interference in Afghan affairs. They called for implementation of a monitoring mechanism of the regime of sanctions against the Taliban at the earliest.