Since, the Afghan government withdrew its previous preconditions and the United States appointed a special representative Zalmay Khalilzad to seek reconciliation last year, negotiations have been ongoing. There have been various rounds of talks between the US and the Taliban in Doha and a number of meetings between the Taliban, certain government officials and representatives of regional nations in Moscow. Peace negotiations are always slow and time consuming and in the case of Afghanistan, no one is expecting any decision anytime soon. However, there are a number of glaring problems with the current negotiations that makes one wonder whether peace is too much to ask for.
Why are Afghanistan Peace Talks failing:
The U.S. maintained that the Doha talks would cover four issues –
1. a cessation of hostilities
2. an intra-Afghan peace dialogue
3. assurance from the Taliban that Afghan territory would not be used for attacking U.S. interests
4. U.S. troop withdrawal
However, the Taliban made it clear that its priority was the last issue i.e. the US troop withdrawal.
The Taliban rejected a ceasefire, instead of launching its spring offensive, Operation Fath.
It also rejected talks with the Afghan government, describing it as a “puppet regime”.
The Taliban provided some assurances on the third issue, but it kept demanding a firm date for U.S. troop withdrawal.
It changed its mind and agreed on the second issue, an intra-Afghan peace dialogue when pushed by Pakistan.
Now, the US wants Taliban guarantees that Afghanistan will not become a safe haven for “terrorists”.
On the other hand, the Taliban is focused on ensuring the withdrawal of all US-led foreign forces from the country.
What are the challenges?
The Afghan government has lost its credibility and there is little support for its term being extended.
A deteriorating security environment makes it difficult for a credible election to be held.
Afghan security forces are losing 25 to 30 men daily, a toll that is depleting ranks and affecting morale.
There is a rise in ethnic polarisation in Afghanistan. With the emergence of the Islamic State, there is growing evidence of sectarian polarization.
Any dilution of the stature of the Afghan security forces would dramatically increase the risks of fragmentation of Afghanistan.
The Taliban is not going to take part in the election, and once a deal is concluded, its demand will be for an interim government.
Even if elections take place, an elected government would soon find itself at cross purposes with the interim government.
Further, a number of promised electoral reforms are yet to be implemented.
The U.S.’s exit will end its long war in Afghanistan but growing political uncertainties will only exacerbate Afghanistan’s ongoing conflict.
How Indian interests would be hurt:
India is completely anchored on President Ghani and that is our limitation too because Ghani is getting marginalized and due to which India too is getting marginalized.
More fighting and political instability in Afghanistan would be damaging, as much for Indian interests as for regional stability.
Delhi is concerned about the vital role that all the powers are giving to Pakistan. Iran and Russia, two of India’s closest allies during the Northern Alliance’s battle against the Taliban regime in the 1990s, seem out of sync with Indian interests.
An emboldened Taliban is sure to impinge on security scenario in India’s troubled Kashmir Valley. The outfit seems positioned to emerge as the ideological bulwark of Kashmir’s renewed insurgency.
US criticism of India’s Afghan policy and his plans to exit could cast serious doubt on the US’s role as a strategic ally for India.
What should India do to maintain regional peace and securing its interests:
India must focus on assisting Afghanistan in every manner possible to ensure that the country’s sorts are as peaceful and participative as possible.
Afghan Centric Peace Process, day by day Taliban is getting its hold strong in which Pakistan plays double role.
On the military front as well, India must move quickly to provide helicopters as well as engineering/tech support for Afghan hardware.
Indian government must realise that its consistent undermining of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) because of problems with Pakistan is also weakening Afghanistan’s engagement with the subcontinent, which India had worked hard to foster
For regional security there must be closer involvement of regional powers in international efforts to ensure non-interference and a stable Afghanistan; this also requires involvement of the Central Asian Republics, which border Afghanistan. It is important for India to coordinate its efforts with those of Russia and Iran to ensure success.
We need to have dialogue on serious note with China and Russia and also try convincing Americans about the negatives of withdrawal of them.
Playing a larger role in regional security would enhance the status of India as regional powers as well as the stability of South, Central, and West Asia.
Russia, Iran, China and India should coordinate together to deal with the problem.
India must seek to build capacities and capabilities of Afghan nationals and its institutions for governance and delivery of public service, develop socio-economic infrastructure, secure lives and promote livelihood.
We should be assertive and become a partner to resolve the issue rather than being a sidewatcher.
Inactive SAARC must now be revived to strengthen the regional co-operation in South Asia.
Tier-II diplomacy and involving other stakeholders: India, which has been against holding talks with the Taliban for a long time, finally sent two retired diplomats, at the ‘non-official level’, to join them at the Moscow peace talks.
Continuing the efforts of implementing mega infrastructure projects, providing military equipments and training to Afghan personnel on the sidelines.
Use of regional groupings like SCO to combat the terrorism emanating from Afghanistan.
Echoing the Afghan stand, India has been asserting that the peace process must be “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled.” Its time, India reassess its stands on various issues related to Afghanistan and ongoing peace process.