Even though the Afghan government may reject as an ``absolute lie'' the Taliban claim that it controls 90 per cent of the country's borders, the escalating security situation in the country has got bad enough for the Afghan army chief to cancel his three-day visit to India starting July 27. Gen Wali Mohammad Ahmadzai, who took over as the new army chief last month, was expected to discuss with India the security situation, as well as possible military support. India has been training Afghan soldiers in various capacities over the years, it has also donated equipment. For instance, in 2019, it donated four military helicopters to the Afghan Air Force, to replace the four earlier donated over 2015-16. India, however, has steadfastly refused to put its boots on the ground, a need that Kabul may see even more now that the western boots have marched off this war.
The Afghan embassy in New Delhi said that General Ahmadzai's visit was called off "due to the intensity of war and Taliban's increased assault and offensive'' back in Afghanistan. The number of civilian casualties is rising steeply, and the United Nations has said that if the Taliban's offensives are not halted, the country would see its highest civilian casualties in a decade.
An unstable security situation in Afghanistan has its repercussions across the region, and India is naturally worried, given its strong reservations against the Taliban.
Meanwhile, US secretary of state Anthony Blinken's is arriving on Tuesday night. The meeting, at which India expects to discuss emerging strengths of the bilateral, the possibility of an in-person Quad leaders summit in the US later this year, Covid diplomacy and the resumption of air travel, as well as the Indo Pacific and the emerging regional security situation, especially regarding Afghanistan, after the withdrawal of US troops, might just get sidetracked, with the US declaration that Blinken will discuss the issue of human rights violations in India.
This is a topic on which India is extremely touchy, as it with any adverse comment on communal harmony. While careful in its language, the US government has sent out its feelings regarding the restrictions on civilians in Kashmir after the abrogation of the special status in 2019. It has also nudged India towards resuming talks with agitating farmers, and on a previous occasion, hinted towards its reservations with the new citizenship laws. While the government itself has been measured in its language, US senators have been vocal with their opinions on India. The Indian government has shrugged off all these comments by saying other countries have no right to comment on India's internal matters.
Indian government sources said it is willing to discuss human rights with those who recognise the value of diversity. Government sources said that issues such as human rights and democracy are universal and extend beyond a particular national or cultural perspective. India is proud of its achievements in both domains and is always glad to share experiences.
A devolving security situation in the neighbourhood is likely to have an impact on human rights across the region, whether it is in the form of security issues or homelessness. Will India and the US be able to keep these issues on the table during Blinken's meetings in New Delhi?