India has urged for permanent & comprehensive ceasefire in Afghanistan. External Affairs Minister has said that durable peace requires peace within & around Afghanistan. India also asserted on the need for zero tolerance for terrorism.
- In the 1990s and 2000s, India was steadfastly opposed to any dealings with the Taliban. But its position seems to have evolved over the years.
- In 2018, when Russia hosted Afghan and Taliban talks, India had sent a diplomatic delegation to Moscow.
- In September 2020, at the intra-Afghan peace talks in Doha, Mr. Jaishankar was present at the inaugural session via a video link, reaffirming the long-held Indian position that any peace process should be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled.
- India also had no role in the agreement signed between USA and Taliban in Doha, although security implications on India was high if a regime change was to happen in Afghanistan.
- The evolution of India’s position is in sync with the evolution of the reality in Afghanistan.
India’s stance on Afghanistan:
- At the 9th Heart of Asia Conference in Tajikistan, he said India has been supportive of all efforts being made to “accelerate the dialogue” between the Afghan government and the Taliban, in a rare direct reference to the insurgent group.
- Today Taliban controls majority of rural districts, at least 13 in number and has indirect control over other 33% of the territory. India must ensure that Taliban’s revival will not impact Kashmir.
- China had long ago reached out to the Taliban. Russia has hosted talks between the two sides. European powers have also shown interest in sponsoring talks. So, India has to be more flexible and adapt to the new strategic reality.
- Since the fall of the Taliban, India has cultivated deep ties with the Afghan people and the government, with investments in multiple projects dealing with education, power generation, irrigation and other infrastructure development. Eg: Salma dam, Hospital in Kabul among others.
- The first batch of vaccines Afghanistan got was from India, in February. Recently, India signed an agreement to build the Shahtoot dam near Kabul. Thus, its economic, strategic and security ties could be disrupted if the Taliban were to take over. But non-engagement can also be counter-intuitive.
- The question India faces, like the other stakeholders, is how to help Afghanistan end the violence without a total capitulation to the Taliban. The memory of IC-814 hijacking is still afresh and India must prevent violence that can spill over to India.
Why Afghanistan is important for India?
- Afghanistan serves India’s security and economic interests.
- Afghanistan is tied to India’s vision of being a regional leader and a great power, coupled with its competition with China over resources and its need to counter Pakistani influence.
- India’s ability to mentor a nascent democracy will go a long way to demonstrate to the world that India is indeed a major power, especially a responsible one.
- The pipeline project TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India), which seeks to connect an energy-rich Central to South Asia, will only see the light of the day if stability is established in Afghanistan.
- India’s interest in Afghanistan relates to its need to reduce Pakistani influence in the region.
- New Delhi needs Kabul to get a better view of Islamabad and hence it is pertinent that it fosters positive relations.
- For access to the landlocked Central Asian countries that border Afghanistan.
- The country is home to resource deposits worth one trillion dollars, according to the US Geological Survey.
Need for corrective diplomatic action
- India has been excluded from the Afghanistan peace process many times including the recent meeting (6+2+1 grouping).
- As per foreign policy specialists, India must play a role in the Intra-Afghan talks. It is common knowledge that the bloody Taliban regime in Afghanistan is backed up by Pakistan.
- Any decrease in democratic strength of Afghanistan and increase in Taliban influence will not bode well for India.
- A Taliban government in Kabul does not augur well for India’s security in the Kashmir region. It may become a launch pad for violent attacks on India.
- IC-814 hijacking should be a reminder for India that corrective actions are needed and to open diplomatic channels with Taliban, as it is getting powerful in the region. Else, India will find itself isolated and pushed to the margins in West Asia.
- India’s Strategic interests converges with Afghanistan, especially economic and geostrategic interests. Trade through Chahbahar and further Zarenj Delaram would provide more market for Indian goods and vice versa.
- Geostrategically India must prevent Afghanistan from becoming a second front for Pakistan in future skirmishes or an eventuality of a war.
India joining the peace process could strengthen the hands of the Afghan government, which is negotiating from a position of weakness. New Delhi should, using its regional clout as well as its deep ties with both the U.S. and Russia, strive for what Mr. Jaishankar called “double peace”, both inside Afghanistan and in the region.