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US-Taliban pact (Doha Agreement) – Part-II

  • IASbaba
  • March 4, 2020
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International Affairs

Topic: General Studies 3:

  • India and its neighbourhood- relations. 
  • Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests

US-Taliban pact (Doha Agreement) – Part-II

Click here for Part-I of the article

The peace deal is expected to kick-off two processes- a phased withdrawal of US troops and an ‘intra-Afghan’ dialogue. The deal is a fundamental step to deliver a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire and the future political roadmap for Afghanistan peace process and the Central Asian region.

Challenges Ahead for the Deal:

  • The deal deliberately excluded the Afghan government because the Taliban do not see the government as legitimate rulers. By giving in to the Taliban’s demand, the U.S. has practically called into question the legitimacy of the government it backs.
  • U.S. has made several concessions to the Taliban in the agreement. The Taliban was not pressed enough to declare a ceasefire. Both sides settled for a seven-day “reduction of violence” period before signing the deal. 
  • Disunity within Afghan Government: 
    • President Ashraf Ghani (belongs to Pashtun- largest ethnic group) and his primary challenger Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah (Tajiks- second largest ethnic group) threatening to set up parallel governments after conflict over 2019 election results.
    • Concessions made by Mr. Ghani’s government to the Taliban will likely be interpreted by Mr. Abdullah’s supporters as an intra-Pashtun deal reached at the expense of other ethnic groups, especially the Tajiks and the Uzbeks, who formed the bulk of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance from 1996 to 2001. 
    • Consequently, ethnic fissures may descend into open conflict.
  • Disunity within Taliban
    • Taliban is composed of various regional and tribal groups acting semi-autonomously. 
    • All of them may not be amenable to following the directions of its top leadership. 
    • It is, therefore, possible that some of them may continue to engage in assaults on government troops and even American forces during the withdrawal process thus threatening the deal
  • Prisoner release: Afghan government is not on the same page with USA on the release of Taliban prisoners. It has stated the prisoners release can be on the agenda of Intra-Afghan talks and not a precondition to the talks.
  • No promises on Civil Liberties and Democracy: Taliban, whose rule is known for strict religious laws, banishing women from public life, shutting down schools and unleashing systemic discrimination on religious and ethnic minorities, has not made any promises on whether it would respect civil liberties or accept the Afghan Constitution.

Taliban and India

  • India and the Taliban have had a bitter past- IC-814 hijack in 1999,
  • The Taliban perceived India as a hostile country, as India had supported the anti-Taliban force Northern Alliance in the 1990s.
  • India never gave diplomatic and official recognition to the Taliban when it was in power during 1996-2001
  • India has been backing the Ghani-led government and was among very few countries to congratulate Ghani on his 2019 contested victory.
  • Indian foreign policy establishment has shied away from engaging with the Taliban directly, as it is viewed as a proxy of Pakistan. India has supported for enduring and inclusive peace and reconciliation which is “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled”.
  • India has consistently supported for an “independent, sovereign, democratic, pluralistic and inclusive” Afghanistan in which interests of all sections of society are preserved. 

Implications of the deal on India

  • The deal legitimises Taliban and its actions. This weakens India’s fight against all sorts of terrorism and violence adopted by such extremist groups.
  • India has a major stake in the continuation of the current Afghanistan government in power, which it considers a strategic asset vis-à-vis Pakistan.
  • As a result of the deal, Pakistan military (through its ally Taliban) will become dominant players in Kabul’s power circles, which is not aligned with India’s interests
  • Although the pact mentions al-Qaeda, it is silent on other terrorist groups — such as anti-India groups Lashkar-e-Toiba or Jaish-e-Mohammed. India, not being an US ally, is not covered under this pact.
  • Ghani government, which India has recognised as winner of the 2019 election, will only serve for an interim period as a result of this deal
  • India will have to engage more directly with Taliban which already controls half of Afghanistan’s territory
  • As Afghanistan is the gateway to Central Asia, the deal might dampen India’s interest in Central Asia.
  • “The bottomline is that India cannot look at the agreements or the route to Kabul via Washington’s view” – Anand Arni (former Special Secretary in RAW)

Connecting the dots

  • India’s projects in Afghanistan – Salma Dam
  • Moral impact of deal on anti-India terrorist groups

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