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Why India must stay involved in Afghan Peace Process

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Pakistan and China’s efforts to eviscerate American presence in Afghanistan and the removal of the Afghan National government from Kabul by openly inserting Pakistani regulars to topple the Afghan government had succeeded but the stability of the Taliban’s government is proving to be an arduous undertaking.

How do you face the militant Haqqani group who performed miraculous terrorist acts on behalf of the Inter-Service Agency to pave the way for the reintroduction of the Taliban in Kabul? As long as the Haqqani group is in the driver seat there are no chances for the participation of the moderates in forming the coalition government. China’s Foreign Minister Mr. Wang summoned ISI chief Faiz Hammed (who was orchestrating the Afghan coup) to Beijing to measure the progress and weigh in on the negative developments and impressed upon him that how important it is for China to restore stability in the region to make progress on OBOR projects. A military-to-Military message followed upon Hameed’s departure. Mr. Wang was unimpressed.

The newly installed Taliban government remains unrecognized and remains as a stopgap temporary government. The international community and lending institutions would like to see a broad-based coalition with certain guarantees such as restoring women’s rights, education access, reopening the border for those who want to emigrate, and no hosting of any terror groups against any states. So far there is a very little or no progress has taken place except some loose statements not attributed to real power brokers.

China’s primary interest was confined to deterring the ISIS-Khorasan group, which is determined to set Uighursthan free from Chinese clutches. In addition to that China would like to resume its long coveted OBOR project in Asia while exploiting certain mining interests in Afghanistan. This cannot happen when the region is in turmoil and rife with terrorist groups of all stripes and colors. On the other hand, Pakistan’s interests are very different than China’s and broader in scale. Pakistan wants to create a proxy state that will carry out Pakistan’s directives against neighboring states like India, Iran, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan. The last three states are also members of central Asian States aligned with Russia for their security. Russia and India shared the same interest along with Central Asian states in maintaining the neutrality of this new Afghan state with the protection of its minorities that includes Afghanistan’s citizens of Hazara, Uzbeks, and Tajiks origins.

There lies the Rub. Will Pakistan order Haqqani to stand down to create a coalition government that protects the rights of minorities that will require a moderate form of Islam and not a
Deobandi version? To create international acceptance of Taliban states, ISI will have to perform “heavy lifting” and find ways to purge the Haqqani group that forms the armed wing of the Taliban movement that uses the strict interpretation of sharia Laws.

At Russia’s request, the meeting was organized involving national security chiefs of Russia, India, the Taliban, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan. The absent invitees were Pakistan and China, two iron brothers and outlaws of Asia.

In military-to-military talks after the Wang-Hammed meeting, Chief of Army Staff General Bajwa was briefed by his Chinese counterpart and conveyed the displeasure of China’s high command. Bajwa took steps and removed Hameed and assigned Lt Gen Nadeem Ahmed Anjum as a new ISI chief. This infuriated Prime minister Imran khan because he owes his present Job as a Prime minister of Pakistan to Hammed. After a few exchanges and protest meetings with Bajwa, Imran had no choice but to accept that change. In the end, the military runs Pakistan and not Imran. Global Times reported that another meeting is scheduled in Rawalpindi, Pakistan but It includes china, Russia,USA and few other states except India. Again, this is not expected to do the Job.

In addition to that Russia realizes that the Afghan situation will remain unsettled for some time due to unstable Pakistan and China’s concern that militancy will pour over her border. Pakistan and Afghanistan have no monies to stabilize Afghanistan unless Afghans sort things out for themselves. AUKUS development and new regional alignment involving UAE, Israel, and India who like to maintain their “strategic autonomy” has rekindled Russian interest in India.

The stable long-term arms purchase relationship with reliable Russia and developing a new mutually beneficial relationship with Israel and UAE serves India’s national interest while cementing and furthering ties with like-minded democracies of the USA, UK, and France.

Just as Rafael purchases from France, arms purchases from the USA, the newly formed relationships involve a partnership with Israel in developing new defense technologies. Adding to that we must switch to cleaner energy and newly generated LNG from Russia adds a new dimension to time-tested friendship while giving a boost to Indo-Russian ties and making progress towards meeting the Paris climate pledge.

During the last fortnight, Russia’s first Floating Storage Regasification Unit (FSRU) — specifically designed for emergency transportation of liquefied natural gas (LNG) via the Baltic Sea to Kaliningrad Oblast was delivered successfully its first consignment without much fanfare and publicity. Russia’s Yamal LNG production delivered its first consignment to India’s Dabhol terminal in Maharashtra by sailing through the Pacific and Indian Oceans. This should convey the message to China that sea lanes are free for everybody, and no one enjoys any exclusivities.

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