Shift in geopolitics, so India to attend signing of Taliban peace pact with US

Written by Shubhajit Roy
| New Delhi |

Updated: February 28, 2020 7:09:58 am

US Special Representative for Afghanistan, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, and Deputy Commander of the Taliban Movement for Political Affairs, Mulla Abdul Ghani Barader throughout a gathering in Doha. (Qatar Ministry of Foreign Affairs through AP)
IN ITS first step in the direction of participating with the Taliban, India has determined to ship its envoy to the signing of the peace pact between the US and Taliban in Doha on Saturday, in accordance to sources.

This is the primary time that an official consultant will attend a ceremony the place the Taliban representatives will probably be current. When Taliban was in energy between 1996 and 2001, India didn’t recognise it diplomatically and formally.

Sources mentioned India obtained an “invitation” from Qatar, and after deliberations on the highest stage, the federal government has determined to ship India’s Ambassador to Qatar, P Kumaran.


First step to new actuality

FACED WITH the brand new actuality in Afghanistan, India is now shifting to diplomatically interact with the Taliban. India’s presence on the agreement-signing ceremony is the primary signal of a doable diplomatic opening. New Delhi has important strategic stakes in Afghanistan, the place it has labored on a number of improvement tasks.

While the choice isn’t linked to US President Donald Trump’s latest visit to India, the signing of the pact can have strategic, safety and political implications for India. The matter was mentioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Trump throughout their bilateral conferences.

On February 21, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had mentioned the US and Taliban would signal a peace settlement on February 29, on the finish of a week-long interval of discount in violence in Afghanistan.

While India has by no means negotiated with the Taliban — besides through the IC-814 hijack in 1999 — it was half of the Moscow-led talks with the Taliban in November 2018, which two former Indian diplomats attended as “non-official representatives”. Former Indian envoy to Afghanistan Amar Sinha and former Indian envoy to Pakistan T C A Raghavan, each related with government-run assume tanks, participated in the talks as “observers”.

Though some inside the strategic institution have argued for participating with the Taliban — who symbolize the brand new actuality — the overseas coverage institution has so far shied away from doing so. With the brand new US-Taliban deal, India has recalibrated its place and brought step one in the direction of participating with the Taliban.

Significantly, India’s considerations on Afghanistan have been “very well reflected” in the joint assertion issued throughout Trump’s go to.

The two sides agreed on a typical language, which was equivalent to India’s conventional place, and even talked about India’s function in improvement and safety help to Afghanistan. Interestingly, whereas the assertion talks about Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace course of, it doesn’t point out Afghan-controlled — for the reason that actuality is that the method is managed by different gamers, together with the US.

“India and the US share interest in a united, sovereign, democratic, inclusive, stable and prosperous Afghanistan. They support an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process that results in a sustainable peace; cessation of violence; elimination of terrorist safe havens; and preservation of the gains of the last 18 years. President Trump welcomed India’s role in continuing to provide development and security assistance to help stabilise and provide connectivity in Afghanistan,” the joint assertion mentioned.

The final joint assertion, issued throughout Modi’s go to to the White House in 2017, had mentioned that Trump welcomed additional Indian contributions to promote Afghanistan’s democracy, stability, prosperity and safety. Recognising the significance of their respective strategic partnerships with Afghanistan, the leaders dedicated to proceed shut consultations and cooperation in assist of Afghanistan’s future.

For New Delhi, the US-Taliban deal holds significance provided that the return of Taliban in Afghanistan has harsh recollections from the 1990s, particularly the IC-814 hijack, which led to the discharge of terrorist Masood Azhar. Azhar later based the Jaish-e-Mohammed, chargeable for a number of terrorist assaults, together with the assault on Parliament in 2001 and the Pulwama assault in 2019.

New Delhi has saved an in depth watch whereas the US and Taliban negotiators have been assembly for the final two years. It has been briefed by the US interlocutors, particularly US particular envoy Zalmay Khalilzad who has travelled to India a number of occasions and met External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on the Munich Security Conference lately.

Apart from the US, India has been in common talks with different lively gamers like all political forces in Afghanistan, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and China on the difficulty.

While many western observers imagine the settlement might symbolize an opportunity for peace in the nation, New Delhi has been extra cautious because it provides power to Pakistan — a long-time benefactor of the Taliban.

Though India has softened its place on participating with the Taliban, it has at all times maintained that it has three crimson traces — which it spelt out when the US, Russia and China have been conducting their negotiations with the Taliban final yr.

The first is that “all initiatives and processes must include all sections of the Afghan society, including the legitimately elected government”. This is essential as, in the previous, the Afghan authorities has usually been sidelined by worldwide interlocutors after they engaged with the Taliban. This additionally means that there’s acceptability in Delhi about speaking to the Taliban — since they symbolize a “section of the Afghan society”.

What occurs to the Ashraf Ghani authorities — which simply received re-elected — will probably be one thing that Delhi will watch. India, underneath Modi, has developed an in depth relationship with Ghani, and has been on the identical aspect of the argument relating to Pakistan-sponsored terrorism.

The second crimson line is that “any process should respect the constitutional legacy and political mandate”. This implies that the achievement of establishing democratic processes and human rights, together with girls’s rights, needs to be revered. Delhi will once more monitor whether or not the “new Taliban” — as many Western interlocutors declare — will respect these achievements over the past twenty years.

The third is that any course of “should not lead to any ungoverned spaces where terrorist and their proxies can relocate”. This is essential for India, because it factors out the menace from terrorist teams together with the Haqqani community, Al Qaeda and Islamic State, which should not be allowed to function there. Also, Pakistan-based terrorist teams just like the Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Jaish-e-Mohammed should not be allowed to relocate.

These “red lines” are India’s mantras, even because it pushes for a nationwide peace and reconciliation course of which is Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled. In quick, India’s strategy has been to counter the Pakistan navy institution’s affect over Kabul.

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