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[RSTV Archive] India and Afghan Peace Process

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar set out India’s red lines for the settlement process in Afghanistan during a UNSC debate. A Qatari official revealed that there was a “quiet visit by Indian officials to speak with the Taliban”.

India has been becoming more central to the negotiations with the Talibans. In this article we will discuss and analyse all aspects of Afghan peace process from India’s perspective.

The tension is the change in “the balance of influence between regional powers and the wider international community” where non-Western states have become more influential in matters of regional security.

Afghan Peace Process

  • The Afghan peace process comprises the proposals and negotiations in a bid to end the ongoing war in Afghanistan.
  • This US-Taliban deal signed in February 2020 was seen in India as a “victory for Taliban and Pakistan”.
  • Although sporadic efforts have taken place since the war began in 2001, negotiations and the peace movement intensified in 2018 amid talks between the Taliban, which is the main insurgent group.
  • Besides the US, major powers such as China, India, Russia, as well as NATO play a part that they see as facilitating the peace process.
  • The Afghan peace group People’s Peace Movement sees regional and global powers as a cause of continued war.

The peace process has not made much headway mainly because violence by the Taliban continues unabated. The Taliban now view this as an important milestone and is busy trying to establish their military superiority on the ground.

Taliban prowess is ever increasing

  • Every single day since the ceasefire, the Taliban is strengthening and violence is mounting high.
  • Taliban is now more organized as an organization with diplomats on par with modern democratic nations with a state apparatus propaganda.
  • The Taliban strategy seems to be to capture power in Kabul by violence and intimidation despite warnings from the international community.
  • At the core of its diplomacy lies the untenable violent extremism based on radical religious ideology.

India and Afghanistan

  • India’s contribution has been phenomenal in every area in Afghanistan since India built the Afghan Parliament.
  • India has been a major military and developmental assistance partner for Afghanistan.

After years of mortal enmity, India is reportedly recalibrating its approach to the Taliban. Reports say New Delhi has opened an exploratory channel with a few Taliban factions. What explains this shift?

Why is India engaging with the Taliban?

  • As the world and India have changed there is an aspiration that Afghan can’t be brought back from the brink.
  • India wants to play a positive role and sabotage those countries that support other terror groups in Afghan.
  • It is visibly clear and Taliban has claimed that the US withdrawal is a victory for them. At the same time, the democratically elected Afghan government is crashing.
  • India is pressing on a peace process all around Afghanistan so that all countries shall be peaceful.

India’s concerns

  • India is concerned over the violence and loss of lives in Afghanistan. Violence has increased manifold after peace talks have started.
  • India, which has committed $3 billion in development aid and reconstruction activities, backs the Ashraf Ghani government in war-torn country.
  • New Delhi wants an all-inclusive “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled” peace process—not one that is remote-controlled by Pakistan, seen as the backers of the Taliban.
  • It supports zero tolerance against violence.
  • Our EAM has iterated that there is need of double peace i.e., within and around Afghan indirectly pointing towards the terror breeding centre, Pakistan.

What are the stakes for India?

  • Afghanistan is a part of  India’s  extended  neighborhood and a link to Central Asia.
  • But for Pakistan occupying part of Kashmir, India would have had a direct border with Afghanistan.
  • Despite claims that the Taliban have changed in the past two decades, there is no proof that it has shed any of its obscurantist ideology which leans heavily towards Pakistan’s official foreign policy towards India.
  • A Taliban-controlled government in Kabul would mean Pakistan controlling Afghan policy on India.
  • And a repeat of the past when Pakistan used Afghanistan territory for anti-India activities.

US withdrawal raises the prospect of an India-Pakistan ‘proxy war’ in Afghanistan, it is neither inevitable nor will it be in India’s interest to engage in such a messy conflict with Pakistan in Afghanistan, especially when Pakistan will likely have the dominant hand.

Fear over sudden US withdrawal

  • US withdrawal at this moment is very dangerous to Afghan. The Taliban is waiting for the US to withdraw.
  • Once the last US marine leaves, it is no doubt that the Taliban would seize Kabul and bring the entire Afghan nation under control.
  • With violence continuing, Afghanistan may slip back into civil war, with warlords cutting deals with the Taliban to control their areas of influence, triggering an indefinite period of instability in the entire region.

Terrorism and its export

  • Cross border terrorism is increasing at the Indian borders. Pakistan has been since long sponsoring them modern arms.
  • A ceasefire in Afghanistan may spill over the terror in the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

International community’s role

  • Many countries have been trying through multiple tracks to kickstart the stalled peace process in Afghanistan.
  • UN-backed talks among Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, India, and the US “to discuss a unified approach to supporting peace in Afghanistan,” do not seem to be happening.

Role of regional actors: India and Pakistan

  • Both rivals India and Pakistan have been in conflict regarding the Afghan peace process.
  • Following a May 2020 attack at a hospital in Kabul, which the Afghan state blamed on the Taliban while the US blamed the regional ISIS branch, Pakistan accused India of trying to derail the process.
  • The Afghan government denied Pakistan’s claims and cited that India is a partner.

Way forward

  • India’s role in Afghan’s peace process and the road ahead is difficult as we see more process and less peace.
  • India has urged for a permanent & comprehensive ceasefire in Afghanistan.
  • Our External Affairs Minister has said that durable peace requires peace within & around Afghanistan. India also asserted the need for zero tolerance for terrorism.

 For a peaceful subcontinent

  • Taliban have several sections that are both radical and some want talks with the international community.
  • So international organizations like the UN must come forward to stop Pakistan sponsor of terrorism. The FATF should move beyond grey-listing itself.
  • Nations should come together against the Taliban so that it can’t move forward without any foreign aid.
  • Aid and developmental cooperation through the UN, India, USA must be done simultaneously for the restoration of democracy.

Conclusion

  • A lot of complexities are involved in the Afghan theatre; tangible demonstration of commitment is required from all stakeholders for a political settlement and to have a permanent ceasefire in Afghanistan.

Reference

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