India’s stake in Afghan peace


As the renewed international efforts to work out a peace plan in the war-ravaged Afghanistan gather momentum, India needs to shed its inhibitions and prepare for a larger role in chalking out a future road map. So far, the main reason for New Delhi’s hesitancy has been the emergence of the Taliban as a key player in deciding the future of the country. However, the Biden administration’s new proposal, pushing for a peace agreement and a transitional government in Kabul, involves all regional players — Russia, China, Pakistan, India, Iran and the United States — to discuss a unified approach to supporting peace under the United Nations auspices. India, which has been playing a major role in the reconstruction of the war-torn country for decades, must seize this opportunity to be at the high table of peace talks and contribute to the establishment of a transitional government before going for a national election and rule-based systems of governance. This is an important moment, given the fact that India has been losing leverage in Afghanistan ever since the Taliban came back to battle in 2004 and getting stronger since then. And, New Delhi was not offered any role in the previous rounds of the peace process. It must be pointed out that the people of Afghanistan, who have suffered a lot due to decades of bloodshed, have a friendly and warm disposition towards India. The latest peace proposal could mark the beginning of a new chapter in Afghanistan’s violent contemporary history that has played a major role in South Asia’s regional and international relations.

A widely representative government is a prerequisite for peace in Afghanistan. A power vacuum that lets the Taliban take the country back to square one is a risk that is best quelled by Indian in peace talks. As the May 1 deadline for withdrawal of the remaining American troops draws closer, the Biden administration has stepped up pressure on the Ashraf Ghani government and the Taliban to show urgency and join the United Nations sponsored peace efforts. A deal struck with the Taliban during the Trump administration in February 2020 committed the US to withdraw by May 1, but Afghan officials fear the move would create enormous security challenges. As the US troops prepare for withdrawal, the Taliban appears to be shifting its strategy back towards military operations. The current US presence in Afghanistan dates back to the 2001 invasion to remove the Taliban from power following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But the movement regrouped and by 2018 was active in more than two-thirds of the country, threatening the elected government. The extremist outfit has been accused of using the assassinations to eliminate its critics ahead of a return to power.

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