Reconciliation with Taliban

Kashmir Times. Dated: 2/9/2019 12:08:45 AM

India has to up its diplomatic offensive to ensure it is not cut out of the resolution process with the Taliban

The reconciliation process for restoration of peace in trouble-torn Afghanistan involving Taliban, as a major stakeholder, appears to be moving at a faster pace than was anticipated. This time the talks process has been facilitated by Russia in Moscow this week with mainstream Afghan politicians sitting around the table with Taliban leaders. This appears to be similar in approach to the recent US-Taliban discussions in Qatar despite the fact that they are rival processes. But one thing is common in the agenda of the US and Russia with both agreeing to the view point that peace in Afghanistan is impossible without major concessions to the Taliban including the dialogue process without any pre-conditions. This includes carrying on with the dialogue without insisting on the Taliban for cessation of violence. This is necessary in view of the fact that no dialogue process is possible with pre-conditions whatsoever they may be. The old dictum that 'we agree to come on the table even to disagree' holds good in this entire process and dialogue can come to some stability if we start talking and discussing the contentious issues that have been holding back the talks process which will ultimately succeed in ensuring peace in the region. It is important to note that even in the duration of the Moscow conference, Taliban fighters have killed at least 47 forces personnel in attacks in Kunduz, Baghlan and Samangan provinces. Both the countries trying to facilitate dialogue process, US and Russia have in separate processes agreed to sidestep the Ashraf Ghani regime in Afghanistan and accepted the ATaliban condition that it will not negotiate with the elected Kabul government at this stage. It is a possibility that the Taliban may relent to hold talks with the ruling dispensation at a later stage when they think it is ripe for them to have them as one of the stakeholders in ensuring peace in Afghanistan. Both the Russian and US processes are dependent on cooperation from Pakistan, which retains its influence over the Taliban leadership. Clearly, the current talks with the Taliban are not within the 'specified lines' agreed to by all stakeholders in the past: they are not Afghan-led, owned or controlled, and the Taliban has not abandoned the gun and violence, or sworn allegiance to the Afghan constitution before joining talks.
When all these developments are taking place elsewhere in Persian Gulf in Asia or Europe, it would be pointless to ignore or reject the outcome of the talks for India. It is worth noting that US has clearly managed to bring senior Taliban leaders to the table and discussing the contours of its ultimate withdrawal from the Afghan war. The Taliban has unequivocally renounced ties with al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, and committed to preventing Afghan soil from being used by foreign aqrmed groups. For its part, Russia has hosted conferences where Taliban leaders sat down with members of the Afghan High Peace Council and senior Afghan politicians, including some contesting this year's Presidential elections. India's principled position that it will not directly or publicly talk to the Taliban until it engages the Afghan government remains valid, but it is necessary that India stays abreast of all negotiations and isn't cut out of the resolution process. It is hoped that a robust diplomatic channel is open between Indian intelligence agencies and all important groups in Afghanistan, including the Taliban, in order to ensure that Indian interests, development projects and citizens are kept secure. New Delhi has to intensify its dialogue with regional and global stakeholders, and impress upon them that any dialogue with the Taliban must not come at the cost of the hard-fought victories of the Afghan people in the past two decades. India has also to work hard on establishing constitutional democracy and the rule of law, and securing the rights of women and minorities in Afghanistan. In order to stay relevant, India has to keep its diplomatic channels open for joining the dialogue process with the Taliban without any pre-conditions.



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