India was and is an important stakeholder in Afghanistan, said National Security Advisor Ajit Doval on Friday, News18 reported.

“The special relationship with people of Afghanistan over centuries will guide India’s approach...Nothing can change this,” Doval said at the fourth Regional Security Dialogue held in Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe.

Besides India, national security advisors of Tajikistan, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Iran, Kyrgyzstan and China also attended the conference.

The officials discussed the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan after Taliban seized power in the country on August 15. The insurgent group’s return triggered turmoil, with thousands of citizens leaving the country to escape their rule.

On Friday, the national security advisors said they were prioritising ways to ensure peace and stability in Afghanistan, News18 reported.

“India has historical and civilisational relations with Afghanistan,” Doval said. “India has always stood by the people of Afghanistan.”

Since August 2021, India has assisted Afghanistan with 17,000 megatonnes of wheat and will provide further 50,000 megatonnes of the grain, Doval said. India has also provided five lakh doses of the coronavirus vaccine Covaxin, 13 tonnes of other life-saving drugs and six crore vials of polio shots, the national security advisor added.

He said there is a need to increase Afghanistan’s capability to counter terrorism in the region, News18 reported.

“The foremost priority should be right to life and a dignified living as well as protection of human rights of all,” Doval said. “Assistance should be accessible to all, respect for all obligations under international humanitarian law should be ensured.”

Doval also highlighted the need to provide education to girls and equal employment opportunities to women in the country.

“It will ensure productivity and spur growth,” he added. “It will also have positive social impact including discouraging radical ideologies among youth.”

In February, the United Nations Children’s Fund had urged Afghanistan authorities to allow girls to go to schools again. Educational institutions have been shut down for female students since the Taliban took over.

“With collective efforts of Regional Dialogue members, we can help proud people of Afghanistan build a prosperous and vibrant nation once again,” Doval said.

Friday’s meeting carried forward discussions held during the third Regional Security Dialogue held in Delhi in November.