Topic: General Studies 2:
- India and its neighborhood- relations.
- Security challenges and their management in border areas
Afghan Peace and India’s chances
Context: On 16th April 2020, UN Secretariat held a meeting, of what it calls the “6+2+1” group on regional efforts to support peace in Afghanistan. This group includes
- Six neighbouring countries: China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan
- Two global players: United States and Russia,
- Afghanistan itself
Did India participate in the meeting?
No and this was not the first time that India was absent in such crucial talks
- In Dec 2001, India was initially not part of talks that led to Bonn Agreement – that led to establishment of interim authority to govern Afghanistan, after US invasion led to overthrow of Taliban
- However, India fought back and was able to build consensus to accept Hamid Karzai as the Chairman of the interim arrangement
- In 2010 London Conference, India left midway when it learnt that meeting had decided to open talks with Taliban
- Post the talks, India’s efforts led to historic Strategic Partnership Agreement, which was Afghanistan’s first such agreement with any country.
Why was India kept of 2020 talks?
- The reason given was that India holds no “boundary” with Afghanistan
- However, India was mainly kept out because it never announced its support for the U.S.-Taliban peace process
New Delhi’s stand with regard to Afghanistan
- India’s position that only an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, and Afghan-controlled process can be allowed is a principled one, but has no takers in reality
- India has supported the Karzai government and later the Ashraf Ghani government, which has been fighting the Taliban
- India enjoys a generous goodwill among Afghanis due to various developmental projects undertaken by India
What is the basis of India’s goodwill in Afghanistan?
The building blocks of India’s goodwill are its assistance in infrastructure projects, health care, education, trade and food security,
- Three major projects that have cemented the friendship are:
- The Afghan Parliament
- The Zaranj-Delaram Highway,
- The Afghanistan-India Friendship Dam (Salma Dam)
- The liberal access provided to Afghans to study, train and work in India.
- India has provided assistance of more than $3 billion in projects
- The bilateral relationship also has trade of about $1 billion
- India has envisaged $20 billion projected development expenditure of an alternate route through Chabahar (Iran)
How has India’s strategy on its support to Ashraf Ghani backfired?
New Delhi’s excessive reliance on Ashraf Ghani has had a two-fold effect:
- India’s voice in the reconciliation process has been limited
- It has weakened India’s position with other leaders of the deeply divided democratic setup in Kabul such as the former chief executive Abdullah Abdullah.
Difficulties for India’s Strategic space in Afghanistan
- The U.S.-Taliban peace deal means that the Taliban has become more powerful vis-à-vis Afghan government, which is not in India’s interest given the Taliban’s close connections with Pakistan
- India’s presence inside Afghanistan is being threatened anew by terror groups such as the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), backed by Pakistan
- India’s resistance to open talks with the Taliban has made it an awkward interlocutor at any discussion on Afghanistan Peace process
- Erosion of India’s goodwill due to controversy surrounding Citizenship Amendment Act
Way Ahead for India
- Union Government must consider the appointment of a special envoy to deal with its efforts in Afghanistan
- India must strive to ensure that its aid and assistance is broad-based, particularly during the novel coronavirus pandemic, even if some lie in areas held by the Taliban.
- India must make efforts to bridge the Ghani-Abdullah divide, and bringing together other major leaders with whom India has built ties for decades. Failure of this will mean a collapsing opposition to Taliban
- An understanding between Iran and the U.S. on Afghanistan is necessary for lasting peace, and India could play a mediatory part.
Connecting the dots:
- Role of UN in international Conflicts – Critically analyse
- Defeat of ISIS- What led to it and its consequences?