External affairs minister S Jaishankar expressed concern at the rapid deterioration of the security situation in Afghanistan while discussing the latest developments in the war-torn country with Qatar's special envoy for conflict resolution Mutlaq bin Majed Al-Qahtani on Saturday.
Al-Qahtani, who holds the official title of special envoy of the Qatari foreign minister for counter-terrorism and mediation of conflict resolution, is visiting India as part of efforts to take forward the stalled Afghan peace process amid a devastating campaign of violence by the Taliban.
Following his meeting with Al-Qahtani, Jaishankar tweeted that he had shared the Indian perspective on recent developments in Afghanistan, and the "concerns of the region that I heard during recent interactions".
"Rapid deterioration of the security situation is a serious matter. A peaceful and stable Afghanistan requires that the rights and interests of all sections of society are promoted and protected," Jaishankar added.
Foreign secretary Harsh Shringla also met Al-Qahtani and discussed the Doha peace process on Afghanistan and "concerns over the deteriorating security situation", according to a tweet from external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi.
Joint secretary JP Singh of the external affairs ministry's Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran (PAI) desk was also present at the meeting between Shringla and Al-Qahtani, who has played a key role in the Afghan peace process. Singh is the external affairs ministry's pointperson for Afghanistan and had held a separate meeting with Al-Qahtani on Friday.
The security situation in Afghanistan has rapidly deteriorated in the wake of the Taliban shifting their violent attacks from rural areas to key cities and provincial capitals such as Herat, Kandahar, Lashkargah, Zaranj and Sheberghan.
Since Friday, the Taliban have reportedly captured Zaranj, the capital of Nimroz province that borders Iran, and Sheberghan, the capital of Jawzjan province.
The US and the UK have asked their citizens in Afghanistan to leave the country because of the worsening security situation. The embassies of the two countries issued alerts asking their nationals to leave on commercial flights.
"If you are still in Afghanistan, you are advised to leave now by commercial means because of the worsening security situation," said the alert from the British embassy.
The US embassy urged Americans to leave Afghanistan immediately, adding that the mission's ability to assist US citizens is "extremely limited even within Kabul".
Al-Qahtani travelled to India before two key meetings to be held in Doha next week on the situation in Afghanistan. Russia has convened a meeting of the "extended troika", which includes China, the US and Pakistan, on August 11, while Qatar will host another meeting between the Afghan side and its regional and international partners.
The world community is looking to these meetings to help revive the Afghan peace process, which has been stalled for several months as the Taliban have shown no inclination to resume peace negotiations with the Afghan government.
In June, Al-Qahtani had confirmed that Indian officials were engaged in talks with the Taliban – a development first reported by Hindustan Times. He told a webinar at the time that he believed the Indian side is engaging the Taliban as the group is seen as a "key component" in any future government in Kabul.