As India fights a two-pronged battle against Covid-19 internally and serious Chinese transgressions along the border in eastern Ladakh, a Catch 22 situation is staring it in the face on another front. Although Delhi has followed a consistent friendly policy towards impoverished and fratricidal violence-afflicted Afghanistan over the past two decades, India must decide – sooner rather than later – on its stance towards the emerging power arrangement in Kabul which will involve the Taliban-minded and fundamentalist.
With the changing geopolitical dynamics in the land of the Hindu Kush, the jury is still out in India on what its policy in Afghanistan should be. Surprisingly, many former diplomats and geopolitical analysts believe that India must react to the changing situation in Afghanistan and not stick to its old stance of not talking to the Taliban. As a result, they suggest that India open up channels of communication with them. Despite the Taliban’s history of serious and recurring violence against their own people, abject cruelty to women, their patronage of drug culture and their utter disregard for democratic and civil norms, our experts call on India to change his position towards him! The close connection between the Taliban and their mentor, the Pakistani ISI, seems to be dismissed on the altar of opportunistic geopolitics.
These experts say that for years India has been marginalized in Afghanistan and that we have ceded space to Pakistan. It should be noted that the latter’s former quest for strategic space in Afghanistan is now a dead concept, although its machinations to have a flexible regime in Kabul persist. It is well recognized that India’s consistent policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan while supporting it in matters of peace and development has secured India the respect of the Afghan people. India is the largest regional donor to Afghanistan, with its $ 3 billion humanitarian support program for electricity, civilian infrastructure projects, hospitals, educational institutions, the Salma Dam and the Afghan parliament building, in addition to medical aid this year to fight Covid-19, in addition to the assurance of sending 75,000 tonnes of wheat this year. Delhi must therefore chart an Afghan policy that combines its national interest and strategic clarity without renouncing adherence to human values which are characteristic of an ancient and civilized nation like India.
Pakistan, which has always been a wrongdoer in Afghanistan, will naturally like to pursue its own interests and thus guide the Afghan Taliban until the latter continue to support its nefarious tactical objectives. Pakistan, following its traditional and shortsighted strategy of keeping India out of Afghan affairs, is now working to show the United States and other stakeholders its supposed influence with the Taliban.
Anyway, Pakistan is trying to mend barriers with Ashraf Ghani’s government in Kabul and has just welcomed Afghan leader Abdullah Abdullah to Islamabad. Abdullah, although a political rival to President Ghani, is the chairman of the Afghan High Council for National Reconciliation and is engaged in ongoing talks with the Taliban in Doha.
On the other hand, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is also expected to visit Kabul in the coming weeks. Contrary to Pakistan’s policy over the past few years of supporting the withdrawal of US and foreign troops from Afghanistan, Imran Khan recently said that a “hasty international withdrawal from Afghanistan would be unwise” and that no early timetable should be set for withdrawal from the United States. troops. There must be something more than what you see for this U-turn.
Meanwhile, Abdullah, during his recent visit to Delhi and talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Foreign Minister S Jaishankar and NSA Ajit Doval, said the Afghan establishment will have no problem if India opens negotiations with the Taliban while India reiterates its support. for a democratic dispensation in Kabul.
The talks underway in Doha between the American interlocutors, the Taliban and the Afghan government do not appear to be progressing as planned due to the intransigence of the Taliban. The Taliban, meanwhile, continue their terribly violent activities in Afghanistan. It is understood that the Taliban will not agree to any ceasefire until a political settlement that suits them has been formalized.
Foreign Minister Jaishankar addressed the Doha talks by video, reiterating India’s position that any negotiation and any agreement should be “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled”. He stressed that whatever agreement was reached there, it was necessary to ensure that Afghan soil would not be used for anti-Indian activities.
In deciding its future Afghan policy, Delhi must never forget the Taliban’s history of violence, extremism and medieval tenets, as well as its abject cruelty. India must convince the United States to fix the problem in Afghanistan before turning what could turn into an inglorious exit. Delhi must also take the lead in bringing Russia and Iran on board to help find a peaceful solution to the Afghan conundrum. He must do everything possible, without putting “boots on the ground” to support and maintain a democratic government in Afghanistan. All actors must fight for a government of national unity in Kabul, and the UN could consider deploying a strong international peacekeeping force.
The world community should not forget that Afghanistan was the country where the global war on terrorism was launched almost 20 years ago and that it remains a case in point. As a regional power, India must take the lead in helping stabilize a nation with which it has enjoyed civilizational ties and which remains of considerable strategic importance to us.
(The writer was the first head of the Defense Intelligence Agency and the deputy chief of the Integrated Defense Staff)
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