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New opportunities for India in Afghanistan

Synopsis: Change of power in the US has provided India with an opportunity to re-engage with Afghanistan. 

Introduction  

  • The National Security Advisor(NSA) Ajit Doval paid a 2-day visit to Kabul. It was the first trip to Afghanistan, by a top Indian official, since the start of Doha Talks between Taliban and Afghan republic representatives. 
  • Both sides discussed efforts for building regional consensus on supporting peace in Afghanistan and counter-terrorism cooperation. 

What has been the course of events in Afghanistan? 

  • The US has agreed to withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan after an agreement with the Taliban. 
  • Although the dialogues between the Taliban and the Kabul delegation were still ongoing, President Ashraf Ghani is suspicious of Taliban’s intentions. It is due to Taliban’s refusal of a ceasefire and a high level of violence. 

Now the Presidency in the US is changed. It will be tough foreign policy tasks for the Biden Administration, to take onward the Afghan process started under the Trump government.  

Why are India’s stakes in the Afghanistan Peace process? 

The main concern of India is linked to Pakistan’s involvement in the process;

  • First, Pakistan has been key to bring the Taliban to the talks table.  Thus, at present, it has an upper hand compared to India.
  • Second, Pakistan’s intelligence agency has friendly relations with the Taliban and the Haqqani network. 

What Opportunities does India have to increase its presence? 

The Change of power in the US has provided an opportunity to both India and the Afghan government, to raise apprehensions about the Afghan process to Washington. 

  • Firstly, Kabul will pressure for the conditions for talks that the Taliban must agree to a ceasefire. Afghan Foreign Minister is looking for India’s help in this.
  • Secondly, the new administration in the US is expected to be more sensitive to the concerns of other participants in Afghanistan. For example, concerns of women and rights groups about the return of the Taliban. 
  • Thirdly, External Affairs Minister of India said that Delhi might increase “military assistance” to Afghanistan. 

Way forward 

  • Now is the right time for India to increase its presence in the Afghan peace process. India should rethink the “temporary” closure of the Indian consulates in Afghanistan.

 

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