Mains Paper 2: International relations| India and its neighborhood- relations.
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims level: Basic knowledge of Afghanistan peace process.
Mains level: The news-card analyses the India and Iran’s role Afghanistan peace process, in a brief manner.
- An American military pull-out from Afghanistan is on the cards and the U.S. will want to leave behind a stable country.
Peace in Afghanistan, rallied on the support of regional powers
- Any peace settlement in Afghanistan will stand a better chance of staying on the rails if it is supported by regional powers.
- Ties between Afghanistan and its neighbours, including Iran, will impact the security of southern and western Asia.
- Like India, Russia, China and the U.S., Iran would want to see a steady hand at the helm in Afghanistan.
- While lacking military influence, India can build on its good ties with the U.S. and Iran to secure Afghanistan.
- Iran is not a newcomer to regional diplomacy in Afghanistan.
- First and foremost, India should try to dissuade the U.S. from dealing with Iran, Russia and China as enemies.
- In fact, U.S. President’s perception of all three as foes is at odds with America’s earlier engagement with them to end its military campaign in Afghanistan.
Afghan peace process: 6+1 process
- From 2014 to 2016, Washington and Moscow quietly arranged talks on the Afghan peace process.
- The meetings, known as the 6+1 group, included representatives from Afghanistan, China, India, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, and the U.S.
- The 6+1 process assumed that each of these countries was essential to the achievement of a political settlement in Afghanistan.
- Moreover, last November, the U.S. and the Taliban joined for the first time the Russia-hosted conference in the hope of promoting a negotiated solution to achieve peace and national reconciliation in Afghanistan.
Negotiated settlement to ensure Afghanistan’s stability
- Regional powers could put their weight behind a negotiated settlement that will ensure Afghanistan’s stability.
- Iran, Russia and China — and the Central Asian states with which India and Afghanistan wish to cooperate in countering terrorism — fear of that continued instability in Afghanistan could spill over into their countries.
- India will also be adversely affected if negotiations break down.
- In that event, extremist exports from Pakistan to Afghanistan or India would probably increase.
India to explore the Iranian diplomatic options to secure Afghanistan
- It could be worthwhile for India to explore the Iranian diplomatic options to secure Afghanistan.
- On good terms with Tehran, New Delhi would gain by developing the Chabahar port in southern Iran.
International North-South Transport Corridor project
- Looking beyond Chabahar, India, Iran and Russia were the founding countries of the International North-South Transport Corridor project as long ago as 2002.
- The corridor is intended to increase connectivity between India, Iran, Russia, landlocked Afghanistan and Central Asia and Europe.
- It would also advance their trading interests.
India’s role with the US
- India could remind Washington about the past coincidence of American and Iranian interests on Afghanistan.
- Together with the U.S. and India, Iran supported the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001.
- In the international negotiations which followed in Bonn that year, Iran supported the installation of Hamid Karzai as President and favoured the exclusion of the Taliban from his government.
U.S.-Iran ties have often been fractious
- As the U.S. imposed sanctions on Iran after 2005, Iran saw the Taliban countering American influence on its borders and gave them arms.
- Iran continues to oppose the U.S.’s presence in Afghanistan, largely because it fears that American troops in Afghanistan could be used against it.
- The U.S. and Iran could be advised of the mutual, and regional, advantages of improving ties.
- Such advantages could range from stability in Afghanistan, and beyond, to increased trade prospects, especially in South and West Asia.
Afghanistan and Iran
- To allay Iranian fears, Afghanistan recently said that it would not allow the U.S. to use its bases in the country to conduct any act of aggression against Iran.
- Last December, Iran also held talks with the Taliban with the knowledge of the Afghan government.
- In recent months Afghan officials have accused Iran, which the U.S. says is trying to extend its influence in western Afghanistan, of providing the Taliban with money, weapons and explosives.
- Iran has denied the charge.
- Iran could gain by strengthening trading ties with a secure Afghanistan.
- In 2017 it supplanted Pakistan as Afghanistan’s largest trading partner.
- At a time when Iran’s economy is weighed down by American sanctions, it would want to build up trade ties with neighbouring states.
The U.S. would also gain
- Iran is the geopolitical hub connecting South, Central and West Asia and the Caucasus.
- The Strait of Hormuz, that crucial conduit, links Iran westwards to the Persian Gulf and Europe, and eastwards to the Gulf of Oman, South and East Asia.
- Moreover, an improvement in U.S.-Iran relations would be welcomed by America’s European allies, who are opposed to Washington’s unilateral sanctions on Iran.
- The U.S. should not lose the chance to act in concert with Iran to improve Afghanistan’s security.
- As the U.S. airs the idea of withdrawal from Afghanistan, now is the right time for India to act as the honest broker between them and to play a larger role in regional security.
- The status of India and Iran as regional powers as well as the stability of South, Central, and West Asia would simultaneously be enhanced.
- It is to be hoped that Mr. Trump’s display of America’s “superpower” in opposition to Iran — and Russia and China — will not block such an opportunity to stabilise Afghanistan.