Opposition questions absence of PM at all-party meet on Afghanistan

Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge pointed out that in 2001 after the US invasion of Afghanistan targeting Taliban, then PM AB Vajpayee had called two all-party meetings, both of which he had attended

Opposition questions absence of PM at all-party meet on Afghanistan

Ashlin Mathew

At the all-party meet on Afghanistan, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge questioned the External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar about the absence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. His question was met with silence from the government representative. Prime Minister Modi had called the meeting to brief the opposition on the "critical" Afghanistan situation.

Kharge pointed out that after the invasion of Afghanistan by the US troops in 2001 targeting the Taliban, then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had called two all-party meetings, both of which he had attended.

When Kharge probed about the deportation of Rangina Kargar, the woman Afghan MP from New Delhi, Jaishankar said he regretted the error. “I regret what happened and it will not happen again. It was a mistake at the airport, but please don’t generalise. We have allowed other Afghan lawmakers to come in,” Jaishankar is known to have said to the MPs at the all-party meet.

At the meeting, RSP MP NK Premachandran, CPI’s Binoy Visvam and CPI(M)’s PR Natarajan questioned the government on its Afghan policy. They called attention to the reality that India seemed isolated in the international arena with respect to Afghanistan. They underscored that India was not consulted or informed when the US was reviewing their Afghan policy and when they withdrew from the country. They questioned why the government was blindly following the US in these matters.

Jaishankar reportedly said they were not “blindly following” the US policy on Afghanistan. India has adopted the ‘wait and watch” policy as they couldn’t predict what would happen next in Afghanistan. He asserted that India was in conversation with several other countries on the situation in Afghanistan.

The Minister of External Affairs informed the floor leaders of political parties that as many as 545 people, including 112 Afghan nationals, have been evacuated by India from Afghanistan. He said India’s priority was to evacuate all Indian nationals but it was proving to be difficult as there are 15 Taliban-monitored checkpoints between the Indian Embassy and the Kabul airport.

Apart from Jaishankar, the meeting was attended by Union Minister and Rajya Sabha MP Piyush Goyal, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi, and Ministers of State of External Affairs V Muraleedharan and Meenakashi Lekhi.

Congress leaders Mallikarjun Kharge (Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha), Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury (party chief in the Lok Sabha), NCP chief Sharad Pawar, the DMK's TR Baalu, and former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda, CPI’s Binoy Viswam, CPI(M)’s PR Natarajan, Revolutionary Socialist Party’s NK Premachandran, Apna Dal's Anupriya Patel were among the opposition leaders present. Indian ambassador to Afghanistan Rudrendra Tandon and Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla too attended the meeting.

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