What will be the consequences of the US suspension of talks with the Taliban? What steps should India take to minimize the damage? (250 Words)

Mentors Comments:
1. Write about the US announcement.
2. What are the reasons for the recent announcement?
3. What benefits and challenges does it pose for Afghanistan and India in particular?
Answer:

The US and the Taliban had been making great headway in the negotiations to facilitate the end of the US’s longest war.  However, the recent upsurge in Taliban terror attacks led to call off the ‘peace negotiations’ between the US and Taliban. The immediate provocation was a suicide bombing in Kabul in which a US soldier was killed along with a dozen other people.

Reasons-

  • The refusal of the Taliban to agree to a ceasefire during the negotiations, President Trump has expressed doubts about their “power to negotiate a meaningful agreement.”
  • Recent spike in Taliban attacks as an attempt to response to Trump’s declaration that the US will “always have a presence and high intelligence” in Afghanistan.
  • It was seen as being such a bad deal that there was a major push back from inside the US establishment.
  • Not only were officials in the Trump team expressing their reservations, but also there was a dire warning against the peace deal issued by nine former ambassadors to Kabul.
  • US admitted that talks with the Taliban will be fruitless as long as the Afghan
    government is kept out of it.

Consequences of US suspension of talks with Taliban

  • The most insidious aspect of the announcement was its timing and attempt to rush intra-Afghan talks just days before the presidential elections with the aim of undermining the elections and rendering them meaningless.
  • Many in Afghanistan fear that real peace will continue to be elusive with the Taliban not stopping its killing spree. The group has repeatedly said that killings will continue as long as foreign troops remained in Afghanistan.
  • It is believed that the withdrawal of foreign troops from the country will push
    Afghanistan back to medieval times. The prospects of a civil war loom large.
  • If Afghanistan did slip into a full-fledged civil war then it would be easier for Pakistan to push Afghan jihadis into Kashmir.
  • India can heave a sigh of relief. India was always skeptical of the outcome of the US-Taliban talks without the participation of the elected Afghanistan government.
  • The Islamic State will take the opportunity and will expand and the country will become a hotbed of international terrorism. Without the international community’s active support, the Afghan security forces will collapse.
  • Afghanistan will once again become a playground for competing regional interests trying to undercut each other and enhance their influence inside Afghanistan.
  • The chances of regional countries coming together on a common platform to stabilize Afghanistan are quite dim.

The suspension of U.S.-Taliban talks has opened a window of opportunity for the international community and India to reset their approach to peace and withdrawal.

Wrt Afghanistan-

  • The Afghan election authorities and security forces should be supported in every way to conduct free and fair elections as an exercise of Afghan sovereignty. Concerns about misuse of government apparatus should be addressed.
  • Free from elections, the Afghan government should take the lead in forging a national consensus behind talks with the Taliban that it has failed to do until now.
  • The international community should support this process and focus its efforts on the Taliban to demonstrate their ‘nationalism’ by distancing themselves from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, halting attacks against fellow Afghans, agreeing to a ceasefire, and negotiating directly with a representative Afghan delegation.
  • Every possible instrument should be brought to bear on Pakistan to deliver on this.
  • Crucial to Afghanistan’s future is its ability to stand on its own feet.
  • There is a need for a counter-terrorism strategy for which he would have to look for options. The demand for a peace process will also remain.

India’s effort-

  • It could provide a stronger foundation for talks with the Taliban that are Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled, and not as dictated from Washington, Islamabad, Doha or Moscow. India should be able to support such talks.
  • Crucial to Afghanistan’s future is its ability to stand on its own feet economically, through investment in Afghanistan’s mineral sector to generate revenues, and militarily, through a progressive ‘Afghanisation’ of security forces at a lower budget. India should be able to help with this.
  • India should be able to use Prime Minister Modi’s rapport with Mr. Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin to influence their policies and play a larger international diplomatic role in Afghanistan.
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