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India’s negative role in Afghanistan during the peace process

Masroor Ahmad

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Masroor Ahmad

Peace in a region can only be won by engaging all power stakeholders towards positive direction. While Pakistan, United States, China and Russia have been on one page to engage Afghan Taliban accepting them as key player in the Afghan politics, India has been trying to sabotage the whole peace process. Thus, the negative role of India during the peace process probably annoyed the Taliban as it has been siding with the Northern Alliance for their strategic benefit instead of looking at the broader picture. Taliban are the ground reality of India which only can be denied by a fool. The recent US-Taliban deal has limited India’s leverage in Afghanistan and legitimized Pakistan’s principle standing on the issue that no peace can be reached out without meaningful talk with Taliban who enjoy enormous popularity and support in vast areas of Afghanistan.
The Taliban due to the off-putting role have lashed out at India, accusing it of playing a “negative” role in the peace process by supporting the Kabul Government which does not represent the entire Afghanistan. In an interview to a news website, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, deputy head of the Taliban’s political office in Qatar and head of the negotiating team with the US, was quoted as saying that “if the Indian government wants to take positive steps in the Afghan peace process and in rebuilding a new Afghanistan, we are counting on it, but according to him, India has been inside Afghanistan for the last 40 years. It played a negative role and maintained economic, military and political ties with a “corrupt” group instead of the nation.”

The elite groups of the Kabul Government are bullying each other for the power lust shunning aside the interests of the common lots of Afghanis. Corruption, other malpractices and bad governance are the key features of the current Afghan regime and people still look forward to Taliban as the last hope in this chaotic situation. Although the Ghani Government wanted intera-Afghan dialogue but it didn’t convince Taliban as they doubted the efficacy of Intera-Afghan diologue and wanted direct interaction with the US which they knew pulled the strings of all Afghan pawns. In a recent interview to the Daily Times of Pakistan, Stanekzai asserted, “Intra-Afghan cannot start unless 5000 of our prisoners are released and there would be no ceasefire and reduction in violence unless intra-Afghan dialogue starts. The US and the Kabul administration are responsible for this situation.”

In a recent press conference, Zalmay Khalilzad underscored the importance of the release of prisoners, which appears to be becoming a deal-breaker. However, it is a good sign that already some 1,011 Taliban prisoners have been released by the government, and 253 Afghan Government prisoners have been released by the Taliban as a good will gesture. The Taliban prisoners were supposed to have been released by March 10, 2020.

India’s Afghan outreach, that of developmental aid, people to people contact and so on relied on the security cover provided by the US and its allies. With that gone, the policies of New Delhi now require a serious re-visit. Instead of supporting the peace negotiations India dragged itself into controversy alleging that the US has been playing the Pakistani game by keeping India out of recent consultations on Afghanistan’s future admitting that it involved in Afghanistan’s affairs as part of US game. Apparently India seems to be appalled by Pakistan’s diplomatic win in Afghanistan. India is one of the most visible supporters of the Kabul government, both during Karzai’s time and now with Ghani. The divisions between Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah have added to the inaction and strengthened the Taliban position in Afghanistan.

it is most probable that while India’s plans have been baffled it must be behind the recent terror attacks in Afghanistan to later put the burden on Taliban who have already denied any linkage with these terror attacks and blasts. The US has also made a clean breast in the war against ISIS, Taliban have played an important role. There is a hypothesis that ISIS was launched in Afghan soil to undermine Taliban and involvement of India’s secret services in recent terror attacks later to put responsibility on Taliban.

Taliban are reaping for their effort after 20 years when they were forcibly eliminated from Kabul and India has a mounting challenge as the Taliban, which New Delhi has always despised, appears to be making a comeback to Kabul’s power corridor. Now with the US withdrawal under way, and a potential start of the intra-Afghan talks, India has to find its place in the post-peace geopolitics of the region which is a far cry from in the present scenario, dominated by Pakistan. Even in the best of scenarios, it is unlikely that Taliban would be open to working with India. For instance, the Taliban may not want the army cadets to be trained in India. The present come back of Taliban will have legitimacy unlike their military take over two and half decades ago. It seems India has lost even its ‘Trump card’ in Afghanistan and Trump-Modi hugs and shrugs yielded nothing to India in Afghanistan. Afghanistan and Pakistan share long border and the fate of Afghanis is associated with Pakistan and Afghan leadership should realize that dancing on Indian tune will not serve the purpose in bringing peace and stability in the region. Afghan saga has been proved the games of thrones for India. It is hoped that the US-Taliban peace agreement will change the course of the history in the region and India should also accept the writing of the wall, if not it will lose all stakes in Afghanistan.

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