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What’s at stake for India in the Afghan peace process?

(FILES) In this file photo US Marines wait for helicopter transport as part of Operation Khanjar at Camp Dwyer in Helmand Province in Afghanistan on July 2, 2009 (AFP)Premium
(FILES) In this file photo US Marines wait for helicopter transport as part of Operation Khanjar at Camp Dwyer in Helmand Province in Afghanistan on July 2, 2009 (AFP)

The US is set to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by 11 September. But peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban militants are floundering amid continuing bloodshed. No one knows what a future government will look like. Mint explains India’s stakes:

1. What is the status of the peace talks?

The peace process has not made much headway mainly because violence by the Taliban continues unabated. One of the conditions of the February 2020 US-Taliban deal was a reduction in violence. That has not happened, though a temporary ceasefire has come into effect over Eid ul-Fitr. The Taliban strategy seems to be to capture power in Kabul by violence and intimidation despite warnings from the international community. The Ashraf Ghani government, which has called for a permanent ceasefire, says it’s willing to schedule early elections to transfer power, an idea opposed by the Taliban.

A round of talks in Moscow was attended by the US, Russia, China, and Pakistan, besides representatives of Kabul and the Taliban in March this year
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A round of talks in Moscow was attended by the US, Russia, China, and Pakistan, besides representatives of Kabul and the Taliban in March this year

2. The international community’s role

Many countries have been trying through multiple tracks to kickstart the stalled peace process in Afghanistan. A round of talks in Moscow was attended by the US, Russia, China, and Pakistan, besides representatives of Kabul and the Taliban in March this year. Another round in Turkey scheduled for April was called off after the Taliban refused to participate in the talks. UN-backed talks among Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, India, and the US “to discuss a unified approach to supporting peace in Afghanistan," do not seem to be happening.

3. What is New Delhi’s position on the issue?

India, which has committed $3 billion in development aid and reconstruction activities, backs the Ashraf Ghani government in war-torn country. New Delhi wants an “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled" peace process—not one that is remote-controlled by Pakistan, seen as the backers of the Taliban.

4. What are the stakes for India?

New Delhi views Afghanistan as a part of its extended neighbourhood and a link to Central Asia. But for Pakistan occupying part of Kashmir, India would have had a direct border with Afghanistan. Despite claims that the Taliban have changed in the past two decades, there is no proof that it has shed any of its obscurantist ideology. A Taliban-controlled government in Kabul would mean Pakistan controlling Afghan policy on India. And a repeat of the past when Pakistan used Afghanistan territory for anti-India activities.

5. The prospects for peace in Afghanistan

Poor, given that the US has accommodated Taliban demands as it stays focussed on withdrawing its troops. It has looked away from attacks on Afghan targets—including the 9 May attack on a Kabul girls’ school that killed more than 50. That the 2020 US-Taliban peace deal happened without a Kabul representative is telling. With violence continuing, Afghanistan may slip back into civil war, with warlords cutting deals with the Taliban to control their areas of influence, triggering an indefinite period of instability.

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