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Engagement with Taliban- A need or a compulsion?

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Have you ever heard the famous phrase “Never lend your hand to your enemy to defeat another enemy”? It perfectly fits in the current geopolitics of Afghanistan. Nobody is aloof of what is happening in Afghanistan and what repercussions it might have in the coming future both for India as well as for the World.

Recent news of Indian diplomats engaging with Taliban in Afghanistan, though not confirmed officially, is something that requires a deep and thorough scrutiny. Some of the Indian diplomats have admitted that they are undergoing a backdoor channel discussion with the Taliban which is headquartered in Qatar. External Minister S Jaishankar’s current visit to Qatar even put some weight on the veracity of the development. If the current news are to be true, it would be a major change in Indian position with regard to Taliban and Afghanistan.

Taliban, a pan Afghan outfit which rose to prominence in 90s with the high hearted support from US in what is seen as attempts of US to destroy the presence of Soviets in Afghanistan. Though Taliban succeeded in defeating Soviets, It then did not limit itself just to a US supported terror outfit, but continued to embark on the journey of becoming the pan Afghan national group seeking to take over the government. Since then, it has been a cause of worry for the US which along with its NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) allies have deployed its military facilities to do away with Taliban with constant fighting killing hundreds of soldiers from either side. As many as tens of thousand troops along with missiles, drones and financial aid from the west have been operating in Afghanistan until last year which saw a deal between Taliban and US, i.e., Doha peace agreement to bring peace and stability in the region. This agreement excluded Afghanistan’s elected government led by Ashraf Ghani which has become very weak and might be subsumed by the Taliban in the coming days.

According to the Doha agreement, US and its allies would withdraw its forces from the region and leave the future arrangements on Taliban and Afghanistan government, which will decide the future course of actions through discussion, on the condition that Taliban will not allow its grounds to be used by other terror outfits operating in vicinity such as al-Qaeda, Islamic states, etc. and with put all its efforts to prevent them from making the abandoned region a breeding ground for terrorists.

Political situations in Afghanistan have been changing frequently with Mr. Ghani’s government becoming less and less weak while Taliban’s continued expansion in the country makes its objective of ruling the country little difficult.

INDIA’s Stand Recent developments in Afghanistan have raise a lot of apprehensions among the Indian diplomats who till now have successfully maintained a clear and categorical stand of no discussion with Taliban. India has always escaped from making any official exchanges with the Taliban. It has been following this policy for a very long time irrespective of the changes in central leadership in India. But as international relations keep changing and foreign policies of nations must be changing with the time, India’s shift in position regarding Taliban is somehow positive in approach. Its previous policy of no discussion with Taliban was mainly based on our assertion and acceptance of the publicly elected Afghan government as the only sovereign power in Afghanistan with whom India had engaged till now. India has always accepted the principle “Afghanistan led, owned and controlled” peace process. But since Afghanistan’s elected government has reduced to a mere ruling body, its engagement with the Taliban is a need of the time. Reason being that Taliban is growing day by day and it is quite inevitable that in near future it would take over the Afghanistan government given the massive attacks it has unleashed to compel Ghani’s administration to accept its clout. If not today, India in order to secure its future prospects in Afghanistan will surely have to engage with Taliban in near future when it would be the sole authority to take up matters of Afghanistan’s state of affairs and decide on them according to their wills.

Billions of dollars have been invested by India in Afghanistan to create suitable infrastructure to fulfill both the basic needs of Afghanistan as well as to secure its trade and commerce. India-Afghanistan friendship dam is one such example. Afghanistan is a midway in our connectivity to Central- Asia and bulk of goods pass through it, after the withdrawal of US and its allies on 11th September this year, Taliban will be the only security provider, thus engaging with it would indirectly secure India’s economic interests.

Another factor that disconcerts India is the security facet. Taliban’s familiar relation with other terror outfits like al-Qaeda and Lashkar-e-taiba which operates from Pakistan with the sole objective of spreading terror in India are not unknown. Taliban could provide them with a safe haven in Afghanistan as there is no guarantee whether it would follow this main condition of Doha Agreement. Since Pakistan too has international pressure to remove terror outfits from its nation from western countries as well as from international organization like Paris based FATF (Financial Action Task Force) which has given 27 target to be fulfilled by it , Pakistan can accommodate these terror outfits successfully in Afghanistan under the safe hideaway of Taliban, given its cordial relation with Taliban.

From the perspective of Security, another source of disconcert is the rise of China in Afghanistan politics after the withdrawal of the US. Recently China has proposed to mediate the peace process in Afghanistan while taking all stakeholders into consideration ,i.e., Taliban, Ghani’s elected government as well as Pakistan. The proposal has been welcomed by many Afghanistan’s envoys and stakeholders as India’s reluctance according to them is nothing but a very source of delay. This development will directly envisage the healthy relationship of Trio- Taliban, China, and Pakistan which indirectly aims at disturbing peace and stability in India. China’s move will also help raise its prominence as a strict competitor to the US for the World power as the US has failed to bring peace in Afghanistan.

Another reason, less troubling, but still be considered properly is the Human Rights violations in Afghanistan unleashed by Taliban. These don’t not have any direct impact on India but still as a member of Human Right council, a body of 47 member state based in Geneva, India must put all its efforts to resolve the human right violations in Afghanistan which see dozens dying daily in attacks and women being assaulted and molested merely for taking western education and working in MNCs (MultiNational Corporations). Many MNCs have begun to withdraw from Afghanistan due to security apprehensions of both employees as well as of business’s future which would have a direct negative impact on its already crippled economy.

Thus India, though with proper scrutiny, must consider the idea of gradually engaging with Taliban with the categorical assertion of the objective of peace and stability in Afghanistan. India’s cultural ties with Afghanistan are centuries old and still flourishing. India must cooperate with other stakeholders to make suitable plans and policies for the betterment of Afghanistan’s future along with securing its own economic, political and security interests.

This editorial is written by Sajal Jain, you can follow him on insta with handle- sajaljainn_143.
All suggestions are duly welcomed!!

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