- The all-party meet was called by PM to brief Opposition on Afghanistan
- It was attended by ministers S Jaishankar, Piyush Goyal and Pralhad Joshi
- Foreign Minister said Centre is committed to ensuring a full evacuation
The government has told 31 opposition parties that its immediate priority is the evacuation of all Indians from Afghanistan, sources said on Thursday afternoon. Sources also said the government told the opposition the Taliban broke promises made during talks in Doha. This was during an all-party meet called by Prime Minister Modi to brief the opposition on the "critical" Afghanistan situation.
Around 15,000 people have sought assistance in fleeing from Afghanistan, sources said, adding that Foreign Minister S Jaishankar had stressed that evacuation of Indians is "top priority".
"We have brought back most Indians... not all. Some could not make it for yesterday's flight. We will definitely try and bring back everyone. We have instituted an e-visa policy and the government is strongly committed to ensuring a full evacuation as soon as possible," Mr Jaishankar said.
He also said the Prime Minister had spoken to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin. There will be more such high-level calls in the days to come, he said.
"We have undertaken evacuation operations in extremely difficult conditions, especially at the airport. Our immediate concern and task is evacuation, and the long-term interest is the friendship for the Afghan people," Mr Jaishankar tweeted after the meeting.
We have undertaken evacuation operations in extremely difficult conditions especially at the airport.— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) August 26, 2021
Our immediate concern and task is evacuation and long term interest is the friendship for the Afghan people.
Apart from Mr Jaishankar, the meeting was attended by Union Minister and Rajya Sabha MP Piyush Goyal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi.
Congress leaders Mallikarjun Kharge (Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha) and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury (party chief in the Lok Sabha) were among the opposition leaders present, as were NCP chief Sharad Pawar, the DMK's TR Baalu, and former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda.
After the meeting Mr Kharge told news agency ANI his party had also expressed concern over reports that a female Afghan diplomat had been deported. He said the government had told him a "mistake" had been made, that "it won't be repeated". and that it would "look into the matter".
Mr Kharge also expressed broad support for the government, underlining that the situation in Kabul and the rest of Afghanistan is "the entire country's problem".
"We have to work together in the interests of the people and the nation," he said, adding that the government had sought patience from the opposition while it plans the evacuations.
#WATCH | "We raised the issue of a female (Afghan) diplomat who was deported. They said that they made a mistake, it won't be repeated & they will look into the matter," says Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge after the all-party briefing by EAM Jaishankar on Afghanistan pic.twitter.com/5rXQHYCVhD— ANI (@ANI) August 26, 2021
BJD leader Prasanna Acharya, who was at the meeting, told NDTV: "In the meeting, the government has denied reports it has been isolated... has told us rescue efforts are being intensified."
Last week news agency Reuters said the group had agreed to a two-week cease-fire in exchange for President Ashraf Ghani's resignation and the start of talks to set up a transitional government.
India, which has been allowed to operate two flights per day from Kabul, has evacuated over 300 of its citizens so far. Overall, more than 600 people have been brought back so far.
However, evacuations have been slowed by the volatile security situation in and around the airport in Kabul, control of which is split between occupying Taliban forces and the United States.
The Foreign Ministry has said the government is committed to their safe return, adding that the main challenge is the operational status of the airport. Evacuations have also been affected by the fact that some Indians had not registered on arrival in Kabul, making it difficult to locate them.
On Sunday another batch of flights from Kabul landed in India - a special Air Force plane carrying around 168 people, including 107 Indian citizens, was among those flights.
Several of the 168 people flown back by the Air Force today were among 150 picked up by the Taliban yesterday, during a chaotic few hours that began with local reports that Indians had been abducted.
Government sources later clarified the group had been taken for routine questioning and checking of travel documents ahead of their evacuation.
An Afghan woman who was on the Air Force flight told ANI the situation in her country was "deteriorating", and that the Taliban had burned down her house.
Indians were also flown in on three other flights - operated by Air India, IndiGo and Vistara. These flights were routed via Tajikistan and Qatar, due to safety concerns over some flight paths.
On August 17, the Prime Minister chaired a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security to monitor the safe evacuation of Indians stranded in Afghanistan.
The Taliban took control of Afghanistan 10 days ago, after President Ashraf Ghani fled and the group walked into Kabul with no opposition. This was after a staggeringly fast rout of major cities, and following two decades of war that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.
Since then at least 20 people have died at Kabul airport as thousands rush to flee the country, according to a report by Reuters that quoted an unnamed NATO official.
With input from PTI, Reuters