Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat on Wednesday asserted that any possible terrorist activity flowing out of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan into India will be firmly dealt with and suggested that the Quad nations should boost cooperation in the global war on terrorism.
He said India was anticipating a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan but the timelines of the latest developments have surprised it, noting that the militant group has not changed over the past 20 years.
He along with Commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command Admiral John Aquilino was speaking at an interactive session organised by the Observer Research Foundation.
In his remarks, Admiral Aquilino said there has been close cooperation between India and the US Central command in evacuating people from Afghanistan, adding the US is committed to ensuring the safe evacuation of all its citizens as well as those from its partner countries.
The commander also referred to challenges that India has been facing, specifically with regard to "sovereignty on the Line of Actual Control" as well as the "foundational security concerns" in the South China Sea region, in a clear reference to China's aggressive behaviour.
Asked about possible security implications of the Taliban seizing control of Afghanistan, the Chief of Defence Staff said India is committed to ensuring a terrorist-free environment in the region.
"As far as Afghanistan is concerned, we will make sure that any activity likely to flow out of Afghanistan and then find its way into India will be dealt with in the manner in which we have been dealing with terrorism in our country," Gen Rawat said.
"I think if any other support can be forthcoming from the Quad nations, in at least identifying the terrorists and getting some intelligence input to fight this global war on terrorism, I think that will be welcomed," he said.
The Quad comprises India, the US, Japan and Australia.
Gen Rawat said India was concerned about the possibility of the terrorist activities from Afghanistan impacting India and contingency plans were put into place to deal with such a challenge.
"From India's perspective, we were anticipating a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. We were concerned about how the terrorist activities from Afghanistan could overflow into India," he said.
"And to that extent, our contingency planning had been ongoing and we are prepared for it. Yes, the timelines certainly surprised us. We were anticipating this thing happening maybe a couple of months down the line," he added.
Gen Rawat said the Taliban has not changed in the last 20 years and only its partners have changed.
"It is pretty much the same; it is the same Taliban that was there 20 years ago. News reports and reports from the expats who have come from there all telling us the kind of activities the Taliban is into. All that has happened is that the partners have now changed. It is the same Taliban with different partners," Gen Rawat observed.
His comments came in the backdrop of mounting concerns over the possibility of rise in activities of various terror groups including Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
Admiral Aquilino largely talked about challenges facing the Indo-Pacific, noting that it is the most consequential region for the future.
"The attack on the rules-based international order that allows freedom of navigation for all is certainly one of the most critical challenges," he said
"That freedom of navigation allows two-thirds of the world's economy to flow through the South China Sea. One-quarter of the world's liquid natural gas flows through the area. It is critical for the prosperity of all the nations and when it is challenged and potentially confronted, that will negatively impact all the nations in the region," Admiral Aquilino said.
He described the challenges as the "foundational security concerns".
"There are many more. There is economic coercion, there is corruption. There are challenges that the Indians, specifically with regard to sovereignty on the Line of Actual Control...There are rules against the people of Hong Kong," he said.