7 PM Editorial |“India’s Role in Changing Dynamics of Afghan Peace Process”| 20th May 2020

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“India’s Role in Changing Dynamics of Afghan Peace Process”

Context: After signing of the peace deal between the US and the Taliban, US government is pushing India to reconsider its long held policy towards Taliban and also encouraging direct engagement with Taliban.

US-Taliban Deal
  • US and Taliban signed an agreement for “Bringing Peace to Afghanistan” in February 29, 2020
  • It will enable the US and NATO to withdraw troops in the next 14 months
  • It also provides for removal of UN  and US sanctions on Taliban leaders
  • Taliban on its part committed to not allow any of its members, other individuals or groups, including al-Qaeda, to use the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies
  • However, the pact is silent on other terrorist groups – such as anti-India groups Lashkar-e-Toiba or Jaish-e-Mohammed
  • India attended the signing ceremony in Doha, and was represented by India’s Ambassador to Qatar

India’s position on Taliban

  • India refused to recognise the Taliban regime of 1996-2001 and rather supported the ‘Norther Alliance’ in fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan
  • India has long­held the position of dealing only with the elected government in Kabul, and has always considered the Taliban a terrorist organisation backed by Pakistan
  • India supports an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled peace process
  • Kandahar Hijack of 1999 and Taliban’s proximity to Pakistan’s deep state has also embittered the Indo-Taliban relations

Should India engage with Taliban?

  • For the first time, a US official has openly suggested that India should engage directly to Taliban and discuss its terror concerns. The rapidly changing political landscape in Afghanistan has put India in a spot. Despite being a key player in Afghanistan’s development and peace process, India was not the part of the US-Taliban agreement. Also, the pact doesn’t covers the terror related concerns of India and left out major anti-India terrorist groups. As of now, India has not made its stand official. But, both the proponent and opponent of Indo-Taliban engagement have argued strongly for their cases.

1.Arguments in Favour

The various reasons favouring a change in India’s position with respect to Taliban are –

  • India’s engagement with key stakeholders is important as it can’t afford to be left out despite having significant stakes in Afghanistan
  • India’s refusal to engage with Taliban will give Pakistan a free hand to use it as a proxy in India’s internal matters
  • Given India’s regional and global positions, it is appropriate for India to engage with all the key players in Afghanistan, not only in terms of the government but also in terms of political forces, society and the Afghan body politic
  • India’s position on non-engagement with Taliban has reduced its role in international diplomatic efforts
  • US wants India to have more active role, other than economic and humanitarian, in the peace process
  • Taliban 2.0 is manifestly different from its previous version which was nurtured by the US as a stooge against the Soviet Union and Iran
  • Even Russia and Iran (supporters of Northern Alliance) have invested significantly in the rebranded Taliban
2.Arguments Against
  • Engagement and bloodshed can’t go hand in hand
    • The US-Taliban deal protects only the American and NATO forces from terror attacks and it doesn’t contain any commitments towards Afghan forces
  • It is meaningless for India to engage with Taliban until it joins intra-afghan talks
  • India’s Afghanistan policy is guided by its traditional and neighbourly ties with the people of Afghanistan
  • India’s support to Taliban will be a betrayal for people of Afghanistan if Taliban goes back to the medieval practices and establishes a Islamic republic based on Sharia thus denying the hard earned rights of the Afghan peoples
  • India’s engagement should be conditional on Taliban joining the mainstream politics
  • India should not give legitimacy to a government in exile (Taliban’s political office is based in Doha) in its own neighbourhood
  • It is imperative that Taliban should deal with India as an independent entity, as a nationalist Afghan entity, and not a proxy for other countries
  • With the signing of US-Taliban peace deal, Afghanistan has entered a critical stage and must become an Indian diplomatic priority.
  • Also, the recent developments (combined with the weakening position of elected government and the simultaneous rise in Taliban’s foothold) points that it is only a matter of time before Taliban gains international legitimacy. So, it is important for India to recalibrate its position w.r.t Taliban in view of the ongoing changes.
  • But, before doing so India should make sure that its demands are heard and its concerns are addressed.


Source: This editorial is based on two articles of The Hindu

Article 1. Getting India back at the Afghan high table

Article 2. India must not give Taliban legitimacy until it joins intra­-Afghan talks

Mains Practice Question
  1. ‘Changing geopolitical situation in Afghanistan require India to re-caliberate its policy and to adapt to the evolving realities’. Critically Analyse.
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