New Delhi: The government told leaders of various political parties Thursday that it does not have the exact number of Indians to be evacuated from Afghanistan and that no specific plan is in place for evacuating them after the August 31 deadline of US troops withdrawal as the situation currently is fluid, Congress sources said.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar while briefing the leaders at an all-party meeting also admitted that deporting Afghan MP Rangina Kargar from Delhi August 20 was a “mistake”, they said.
Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, Congress deputy leader in the Upper House Anand Sharma and leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury were among the leaders who represented the principal opposition party in the meeting.
Sources said Kharge, while raising the concerns on behalf of the Congress, asked if there are Indians who may still be stranded in Afghanistan after August 31 and what is the Government of India’s evacuation strategy.
Asked how many Indians still remain in Afghanistan, the government said it did not have a specific number, the sources said.
The Congress leader said it was very essential that India provides a sense of assurance and strong solidarity with the people of Afghanistan and asked what steps the government was taking for providing humanitarian assistance there.
Kharge also raised concern over the rise in terrorism impacting the regional security situation and the challenges emerging from the re-emergence of the Taliban and its terror links.
He sought strong counter-terrorism measures and strengthening of defences in Jammu and Kashmir and asked whether the government has taken any view on this.
Noting that Pakistan would be the immediate gainer after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, Sharma asked what would be its implications on India’s national security, according to the sources.
Sharma also sought to know whether India was coordinating with its traditional allies Russia and Iran to address such challenges.
The Congress leaders also sought to know what transpired during the discussions the prime minister had with the Russian President and the German Chancellor recently.
They also sought to know what diplomatic or other strategic steps are being planned to strengthen India’s position both in the short term and in the long term.
Kharge also raised the issue of Rangina Kargar, the Afghan woman member of Parliament since 2010 who was deported from New Delhi’s IGI Airport on August 20, 2021 and asked why the MEA took such a measure.
“We raised the issue of deportation of a woman MP. He (Jaishankar) said it was a mistake and such incident will not happen in future. They (the government) regretted it,” Kharge told reporters after the meeting.
On the issue of India being part of secret talks being held in Doha with the Taliban to discuss the Afghanistan crisis, the government did not deny being part of such talks but said no outcome has come out, the sources claimed.
On how the government plans its future strategy vis-a-vis the Taliban and whether it will engage with it, the government told the leaders that it was an evolving situation and a “wait and watch policy” was being adopted, the sources said.
The Congress leaders also asked why the prime minister was not briefing the opposition parties. They said then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had briefed all parties on September 15 and 30 in 2001 after the US invasion of Afghanistan.