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India’s Position Shift on Taliban

  • 14 Sep 2020
  • 5 min read

Why in News

Recently, India has signaled a shift in its position on engaging with the Taliban by participating in the commencement ceremony of Intra-Afghan talks between the Afghanistan government and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar.

Key Points

  • India’s Position Shift:
    • The Indian presence at the Intra-Afghan peace talks indicates that it has changed its position given the ground reality in Afghanistan and the changing power structure in Afghanistan.
      • USA's withdrawal has given Pakistan a major role to play in Afghanistan directly or indirectly through its proxies.
    • However, some experts were of the opinion that India chose to attend the ceremony because the Afghan government was also at the table.
    • India still does not recognise the Taliban.
  • India’s Stand:
    • India believes any peace process must be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled. i.e.
      • It has to respect the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of Afghanistan and promote human rights and democracy.
      • It also needs to preserve the progress made in the establishment of a democratic Islamic Republic in Afghanistan.
    • The interests of minorities, women and vulnerable sections of society must be preserved and the issue of violence across the country and its neighbourhood has to be effectively addressed.
    • Indian interests, which include the Indian Embassy and Indian companies and workers in Afghanistan, should also be protected.
    • India supports an "independent and sovereign" Afghanistan.The use of words “independent and sovereign” make it clear that Pakistan and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) should not control the levers in Afghanistan.
  • Background:
    • The USA signed a deal with the Taliban that paved the way towards a full withdrawal of USA troops from Afghanistan and also represent a step towards ending the 18-year-war in Afghanistan.
    • The peace deal was expected to kick-off two processes- a phased withdrawal of US troops and an ‘intra-Afghan’ dialogue.
    • The deal is a fundamental step to deliver a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire and the future political roadmap for the Afghanistan peace process.
  • India’s Interests in Afghanistan:
    • India has a major stake in the stability of Afghanistan. India has invested considerable resources in Afghanistan's development. E.g. the Afghan Parliament, the Zaranj-Delaram Highway, Afghanistan-India Friendship Dam (Salma Dam) among others.
    • Afghanistan is the gateway to Central Asia.

  • Issues Involved:
    • India is concerned about the Taliban’s links with Pakistan’s ISI and efforts by the latter to use the Haqqani network to target India’s interests in Afghanistan.
      • India’s Afghanistan policy continues to be assessed vis-a-vis Pakistan, which opposes any security role for India in Afghanistan and sees India’s presence there as detrimental to its interests.
    • Taliban also has link with Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) and Laskar-e-Toiba (LeT) who are behind various terrorist activities against India.
    • India still does not recognise the Taliban. However, if it considers the option of entering into direct talks with the Taliban, it would constitute a major departure from its consistent policy of dealing only with recognised governments.

Way Forward

  • India needs to re-evaluate its decisions and be more omnidirectional in its approach to deal with all forces that are central to the future of Afghanistan.
  • The changing political and security situation requires India to be more open to adapting its maximalist position and starting a dialogue with the Taliban.

Source: IE

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