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India-Russia NSAs discuss cooperation in Afghanistan, Indo-Pacific

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The national security advisers of India and Russia held a brainstorming session on several issues including the Afghan situation amid US troop withdrawal and the future role of Taliban on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s (SCO) NSA-led meeting this week.

Enhancing security & counter-terror cooperation, partnership between security agencies and the Indo-Pacific region were also among the topics discussed at the over two-hour meeting between India’s AK Doval and his Russian counterpart, Nikolay Patrushev, in Tajikistan’s capital of Dushanbe, ET has gathered.

Doval and Patrushev share strong chemistry and the two sides are hoping to build up on their existing security cooperation. The meeting was held at a time when India is preparing to respond to the fast-evolving situation in Afghanistan.

Patrushev and Doval discussed in detail “further plans of the Russia-India interaction in the security sphere, cooperation among the security and law-enforcement agencies”, a Russian government statement said. The sides also exchanged their opinions on the situation in Afghanistan.

Russia has emerged as a key player in the Afghan theatre as US troops prepare to depart and India is seeking to coordinate with Moscow to safeguard its interests. During the Taliban rule between 1996 and 2001, India, Russia and Iran worked closely to back the Northern Alliance led by Ahmed Shah Masood.

India has been keen to engage Russia in the Indo-Pacific region through investments in the Russian Far-East and a trilateral also involving Japan. The revival of the Chennai-Vladivostok shipping route hopes to give further momentum to Indo-Pacific partnership.

At the SCO meet, NSA Doval in the presence of Pakistan NSA proposed an action plan against LeT and JeM as part of the SCO framework, and emphasised adoption of international standards to counter terror financing including a memorandum of understanding between the SCO and the Financial Action Task Force, according to one of the people in the know.

He also suggested the need to monitor new technologies used by terrorists including drones for smuggling of weapons and misuse of the dark web, artificial intelligence, blockchain and social media.

Doval, according to people familiar with the matter, drove home the point of preserving gains made in the last two decades in Afghanistan. India fully supports the SCO Contact Group on Afghanistan, which should be more active, he recommended.

He noted that greater connectivity including through initiatives like Chahbahar, INSTC, Regional Air Corridors and the Ashgabat Agreement always lead to economic gains and building trust. However, that connectivity must respect sovereignty and territorial integrity, he said, in a message for China’s Belt & Road Initiative that passes through Pak-occupied Kashmir.

Doval said perpetrators of terrorism including cross-border terror attacks should be expeditiously brought to justice and emphasised on the need for full implementation of UN resolutions and targeted sanctions against UN designated terrorist individuals and entities, the people ET spoke to said.

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