Asserting that continuing instability and fundamentalism in Afghanistan will embolden terrorist and extremist ideologies across the world, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday asked the global community to decide "thoughtfully" in recognising the new set-up in Kabul in view of questions about its legitimacy as the change of power was not "inclusive and happened without negotiation".
In a virtual address at a meeting of the heads of state of the SCO and the Collective Security Treaty Organisation on Afghanistan, Modi said the developments in the war-torn country will have the "greatest impact" on neighbouring countries like India and underscored the need to ensure that Afghan soil was not used to spread terrorism in any country.
He also called for having a code of conduct to prevent cross-border terrorism and terror financing.
Earlier, Speaking at the meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Council of Heads of State, Modi said the recent developments in Afghanistan have demonstrated that increasing radicalisation was the "root cause" of biggest challenges relating to peace and security in the region and pitched for developing a common template by the SCO to deal with these challenges.
Modi also called for enhancing connectivity between land-locked Central Asia and India and noted that such projects should be transparent and respect the territorial integrity of all countries, in comments that came amid growing criticism of China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Among other leaders of SCO member nations, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan addressed the summit.
In his virtual address at the meeting, held in Tajikistan capital Dushanbe in a hybrid format --virtual as well as in-person, the Prime Minister talked about Sufism and cultural heritage of Central Asia and said the SCO should develop a common template to fight radicalisation and extremism on the basis of the historical heritage of the region.
"The 20th anniversary of the SCO is also a suitable occasion to think about the future of the SCO. I believe that the biggest challenges in this area are related to peace, security and trust deficit and the root cause of these problems is increasing radicalisation," the Prime Minister said.
The recent developments in Afghanistan have made this challenge more apparent and the SCO should take an initiative on this issue, he asserted.
Without naming the Taliban, the Prime Minister mentioned four specific issues covering key concerns relating to the developments in Afghanistan and the need for the international community to look at them.
The first issue, he said relates to the questions over the change of power as it was not inclusive and took place without negotiation.
"This raises questions about the acceptability of the new system. Representation of all sections of Afghan society, including women and minorities, is also important," Modi said.
"And therefore, it is essential that the global community decides on the recognition of the new system in a thoughtful and collective manner," he said.
Talking about the second issue, the Prime Minister said if instability and fundamentalism continue in Afghanistan, it will lead to terrorist and extremist ideologies all over the world.
"Other extremist groups may also be encouraged to seek power through violence. We (all countries) have been victims of terrorism in the past. And so together we must ensure that the soil of Afghanistan is not used to spread terrorism in any country," he said.
Modi said the SCO member countries should develop strict and common norms on this subject and they can also become a template for global anti-terror cooperation.
These norms, he said should be based on the principle of zero tolerance towards terrorism, noting that a "code of conduct" should be brought up to prevent activities like cross-border terrorism and terror financing.
"And there should also be a system of their enforcement," he added.
Explaining the third point, Modi said developments in Afghanistan could lead to an uncontrolled flow of drugs, illegal weapons and human trafficking.
"Due to these, there will be a risk of instability in the entire region. The RATS (Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure) mechanism of SCO can play a positive role in monitoring these flows and enhancing information sharing," Modi said.
He said India is presiding over the council of this institution from this month and that it has developed proposals for practical cooperation on the matter.
The fourth topic of concern, Modi said, is the serious humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
Modi said India has been Afghanistan's trusted partner for many years for development and humanitarian assistance in a number of sectors including education, health and capacity building.
"Even today we are eager to deliver food items, medicines to our Afghan friends," he said.
The Prime Minister said there was a need to work together to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches Afghanistan in a relentless manner.
Modi also said fighting radicalisation is not only necessary for regional security and mutual trust, but it is also necessary for the bright future of our younger generations.
"To compete with the developed world, our region has to become a stakeholder in emerging technologies. For this we have to encourage our talented youth towards science and rational thinking," he said.
The Prime Minister said the vast economic potential of the region has also remained untapped due to radicalisation and insecurity, be it mineral wealth or intra-SCO trade.
He said, to take full advantage of them, there was a need to enhance connectivity and that India is committed to increasing its connectivity with Central Asia.
"We believe that land-locked Central Asian countries can benefit immensely by connecting with India's vast market. Unfortunately, many connectivity options are not open to them today due to lack of mutual trust," Modi said.
"Our investment in Iran's Chabahar port and our efforts towards the International North-South Corridor are driven by this reality," he said.
The Prime Minister said that any initiative on connectivity cannot be a one-way street and that connectivity projects should be consultative, transparent and participatory to ensure mutual trust.
His comments came in the backdrop of increasing criticism of China's Belt and Road Initiative.
"In this regard, respect for the territorial integrity of all countries should be implicit. Based on these principles, SCO should develop suitable norms for connectivity projects in the region," Modi said.
In a joint declaration issued at the end of the annual Summit, the bloc voiced support for an independent, democratic and peaceful Afghanistan, free of terrorism, war and drugs and said it is critical to have an "inclusive" government in the war-torn country, with representatives from all ethnic, religious and political groups.
The leaders of the SCO member states also strongly condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
Noting that one of the most important factors in preserving and strengthening security and stability in the SCO region is the early settlement of the situation in Afghanistan, the SCO leaders supported the emergence of Afghanistan as "an independent, neutral, united, democratic and peaceful state, free of terrorism, war and drugs."
"Member States believe that it is critical to have an inclusive Government in Afghanistan, with representatives from all ethnic, religious and political groups of Afghan society," the joint declaration said, in an apparent reference to the Taliban's interim government which is dominated by high-profile members of the insurgent group, including at least 14 members who are on the UN Security Council's terrorism blacklist.