Insights into Editorial: New U.S. policy can boost Indo-Afghan security ties: Abdullah Abdullah
During his recent visit, Chief executive participated at the India-Afghanistan Trade & Investment Show which was inaugurated on September 27, 2017 by Finance Minister. He delivered Lecture on ‘Regional Peace-building’ at the Indian Council of World Affairs.
The outcomes of recent visit
- Both sides positively assessed the recent developments in bilateral relations, including the outcomes of the recently concluded meeting of the Strategic Partnership Council.
- The ‘New Development Partnership’ was described as paving the way for the new generation partnership in development cooperation between the two countries aimed at community development, infrastructure creation and human resource and capacity building in Afghanistan.
- The Indian leadership reiterated its support for all efforts to build stable, secure, peaceful, united, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan.
- Both sides condemned the continuing acts of terror and violence in Afghanistan, including the recent attack at the Kabul airport. It was agreed the issue of safe havens and sanctuaries needs to be addressed effectively.
- A Memorandum of Understanding on technical cooperation on police training and development was signed. This has created an enabling framework for training and capacity building of Afghan National Police personnel in various fields in addition to India’s on-going assistance for the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces.
- Trade and Economic cooperation was also the focus of discussions.
- Better connectivity was emphasised upon. In this context, both sides expressed determination to strengthen the Air Freight Corridor and also welcomed the steps being taken to operationalise the Chahbahar port, including the forthcoming supply of wheat to Afghanistan from October 2017.
- Afghanistan was invited to participate in the International Solar Alliance Summit meeting being held in India in December 2017 and also to the World Food Processing Show being held in November 2017 in India that would enable the Afghan businessmen to engage with the international markets.
The new U.S. policy in Afghanistan is an “opportunity” for India-U.S.-Afghanistan cooperation on security as well as development issues, says Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.
How important is the MoU on technical and training cooperation signed during the visit?
The MoU is an important step in the security sector. India’s support has been comprehensive here and has always looked at the priorities and the wishes of the Afghan government and people.
Chief Executive’s visit to India had two parts:
- One was the bilateral meetings where the entire gamut of bilateral relations and areas of cooperation from security to trade and investment were being discussed.
- The other part was the trade and investment show which was cooperation between the U.S., Afghanistan and India. Lots of businessmen and women had the opportunity to interact and bond.
Do recent MoUs represent a bigger picture, in which India takes a larger security role, and the India-Afghanistan-U.S. trilateral emerges as an axis?
India has been helping Afghanistan for the past 16 years in many ways. The United States has been helping Afghanistan for the past 16 years.
- The cooperation between India and Afghanistan had a security element throughout, like the helicopters India transferred, or training Afghan troops.
- What was added to that was the announcement of the U.S. policy, which is an opportunity to take this relationship to the trilateral level as well. Hence it is going to be a good opportunity for India to take a larger security role.
Opportunity for India still exists even after Indian Defence Minister said that there will be no Indian boots on the ground in Afghanistan. Because
- India has always behaved as a friend to Afghanistan, and wished for a stable and democratic country, and an Afghanistan at peace, within and without, contributing to the prosperity of the region.
- Based on this shared vision, India has been ready to provide assistance based on Afghanistan priorities, as presented by its people and government.
India’s role in Afghanistan has been important, contributing to the stabilisation of Afghanistan, contributing to country’s wellbeing and is appreciated by country’s people.
Is there still a chance of reconciliation for Afghanistan government with the Taliban?
The policy has been constant in the past 16 years. The door for talks and negotiations is always open. Periodically there have been contacts, messages communicated to the government. People of Afghanistan are supportive of the talks, but at the same time, won’t give up their achievements, including the Constitution.
The story of reconciliation in Afghanistan is much deeper than this. Afghans were fighting against the Soviets, as a result of which millions of people were refugees, hundreds of thousands were killed. In national interest, a unified Afghanistan is important. They shouldn’t get stuck in the past, even if they can’t forgive or forget. There were some incidents of revenge that did happen.
The people who were responsible for the killing of thousands in the past were still around, but the spirit of reconciliation is still important.
The new U.S. policy has seen a mere 3,000 plus troops from the U.S. When a force strength of 100,000 didn’t finish the Taliban, how do you think this will?
The important thing from the U.S., apart from troops and military hardware, is the clarity of the message.
- The clarity that this policy is not time-bound, but condition-based, with a regional component.
- The bulk of the responsibility is on the shoulders of Afghan soldiers and of the people they support.
- That is the hope, not just for individuals but it is the support for a free, unified, democratic Afghanistan with equal rights for men and women.
Could Afghanistan become the ground for yet another ‘Great Game’, given that there are now two distinct camps with U.S. and Europe on one side and Russia China, even Iran and Pakistan on the other?
Major global powers like Russia and China and regional powers like Iran are now ready to embrace the Taliban — in their own interest, but ostensibly for peace in Afghanistan.
The security situation in Afghanistan is getting worse by the day. As the civil war continues and number of deaths rise, Western and regional stakeholders are deeply worried and realigning themselves in Afghanistan.
- The most prominent but opposing groups are the Afghan Taliban and the Islamic State. The Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) welcomed disgruntled Taliban fighters in its ranks and has become a dangerous force.
- ISKP emerged simultaneously as US forces began withdrawing from Afghanistan in 2015. It has drastically changed the strategic landscape and war dynamics in Afghanistan as regional alliances began shifting.
- Pakistan’s ISI created the Taliban and has used it to destabilise the “unfriendly” governments in Kabul. Pakistan, having deep strategic interest in Afghanistan, always played a double game with Kabul through its influence over the Taliban. But now Pakistan is faced with a bigger enemy — the Islamic State.
- Afghanistan-Pakistan-India relations are a complicated narrative. India has always tried to reach Afghanistan over the head of Pakistan and develop close strategic relations with Kabul. In May 2017, Delhi offered USD 1 billion to Kabul as economic assistance. However, India is the only major power that does not have any communication channel with the Taliban or ISKP.
- Tentative US attempts to contact the Taliban in the past have not produced any positive results. Even after 16 years of Operation Enduring Freedom there is no peace in sight.
- Russia, after being ousted from the country in 1988, has developed links with the Taliban. Moscow has always called Taliban a terrorist organisation and supported the Northern Alliance. But now with the presence of ISIL, Russia has changed its position, primarily because it does not want Central Asian Republics to come under the influence of ISKP extremism.
- Though (Shiite) Iran supports the current government, it has also developed clandestine links over the past few years with the Taliban. The presence of (Sunni) ISKP on its borders is bad news for Tehran. Besides, Iran has always opposed US presence in Afghanistan, but since the Taliban fights US forces it is only natural that Tehran would maintain links with the Taliban.
- China while assisting Kabul in fighting terrorism has maintained links with the Taliban. China certainly does not want ISKP’s fundamentalism spreading to the Xinjiang province bordering Afghanistan. China wants to help resolve the conflict as it has invested billions of dollars in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
- Saudi Arabia which has been deeply involved in Afghanistan maintains dual tracks — supporting President and funding the Taliban.
All the powers know that there is no military solution to this conflict. Peace will not come to Afghanistan as long as the stakeholders pull Afghanistan in different directions. So need of the hour is to bring back the [global] consensus that existed in 2001 [post fall of Taliban], that was a very broad one with very few exceptions.