Mainstreaming Afghan Taliban
TOPIC: General Studies 2
- Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
In News: Ashraf Ghani, Afghanistan’s president, has played his last card by putting across a bold plan to draw the Taliban into a binding peace process. The Afghan government made the offer to show an international audience that it is willing to negotiate, and to encourage those participating in the conference, Kabul Process, to pressure the Taliban to accept.
This last, desperate gamble by him to end one of the world’s most intractable wars, follows a sharp escalation in the number of Taliban attacks. According to UN figures, a rise in the number of undiscriminating attacks last year resulted in more than 10,000 civilian casualties – 3,438 people killed and 7,015 injured.
What is his offer to Taliban?
- Recognize the Taliban as a legitimate political group
- A ceasefire
- Release of prisoners
- Inclusive elections
- An office in the capital, Kabul
- Passports for their members
- Help in resettling militants’ families
- Assistance in scrubbing the names of top commanders from international terrorist blacklists
Expectations from Taliban:
- Give input to the peace-making process
- Recognize the Afghan government and respect the rule of law
Reaction of Taliban:
- Insisting on direct negotiations with the United States
- Dismisses the American-backed government in Kabul as a puppet
- Has said that military strategies which have repeatedly been tested in Afghanistan over the past 17 years will only intensify and prolong the war
What is US, a principal military ally doing?
- Gen John Nicholson, the US commander in Afghanistan, persuaded Trump to deploy an additional 3,000 troops, taking the total to about 14,000. American forces stepped up anti-insurgent operations last year, particularly airstrikes –to force the Taliban to the negotiating table.
- Putting pressure on Pakistan to force the Taliban to negotiate with the Afghan government: Washington withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. security assistance last month over Islamabad’s alleged support for terrorism, to crack down on militant safe havens on its side of the Afghan-Pakistan border → Pakistan is famous as a longstanding backer of Taliban leaders and the allied Haqqani network
- US’s stand: Any peace talks with Afghanistan have to be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned
To establish peace, outside the war-field, India must display its leadership skills –
Democratic India cannot afford to let things slide, without effectively trying to find ways and means to change a situation which is certainly not to our advantage. As a regional superpower, India has high stakes in Afghanistan.
Economic: Ramp up economic diplomacy in Afghanistan to bring immediate benefits to Kabul amidst the deteriorating conditions in the country.
Security: Step up security cooperation with Afghanistan, especially in the training of its police and armed forces and intelligence sharing.
Diplomatic: India must counter the emerging argument that Trump’s new approach will intensify the Indo-Pak rivalry in Afghanistan and the old one that Kashmir holds the key to peace in Afghanistan. India needs to open channels of communication to Taliban and put their focused attention in instilling peace. Not only is there the ‘human cost’ involved but also the humanitarian assistance that we have been providing. Moreover, if Afghanistan was to disintegrate, we might stand to lose our cultural and civilizational connection as well.
Connecting the Dots:
- A stable Afghanistan is key to India’s policy towards Central Asian countries. Comment.
- India has high strategic and economic stakes in Afghanistan. Examine.
- The latest shift in USA’s strategy for Pakistan and Afghanistan is a golden opportunity for India to capitalise. Do you agree? Critically analyse.