IASbhai Daily Editorial Hunt | 19th Sep 2020
Don’t wish it were easier. Wish you were better.– Jim Rohn
EDITORIAL HUNT #146 :“India’s Afghan Policy and Relations“
India’s Afghan Policy and Relations
Rakesh Sood is a former Ambassador to Afghanistan and currently Distinguished Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation
Another Afghan peace push and a role for India
New Delhi’s engagement after America’s exit must build on its resonating vision of a stable and plural Afghanistan
SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 2 : IR
Afghan led and Afghan owned had changed to USA led and Afghan controlled backyard . Device India’s stand and strategic concerns in central Asia . (GS-2)
- Doha Agreement
- USA Withdrawal
- India Afghanistan Strategic Partnership
- SURPRISE : This has stunned the world and marked the beginning of the U.S. war in Afghanistan against al Qaeda and the Taliban, its local sponsors.
- U.S.-TALIBAN PEACE DEAL : The initiation of intra-Afghan talks was a key element in the U.S.-Taliban peace deal signed in Doha on February 29 .
DYNAMICS OF NEGOTIATIONS
- STALEMATE : US administrations 2017 policy of breaking the military stalemate by a small increase in U.S. troops was not working and reverted to seeking a managed exit.
- RELABELLING THE WITHDRAWAL : Political optics demanded a relabelling of the withdrawal.The U.S. doesn’t lose wars, it loses interest.-Former Defence Secretary USA
- FIRST SEGMENT : The Doha track was first initiatied with the Taliban.
- SECOND SEGMENT : A second track was with Islamabad/Rawalpindi to cajole the Pakistan Army to lean on the Taliban to get them to the negotiating table.
Originally Afghanistan had spelt out four objectives:
- An end to violence by declaring a ceasefire;
- An intra-Afghan dialogue for a lasting peace;
- The Taliban cutting ties with terrorist organisations such as al Qaeda
- U.S. troop withdrawal.
- RECONCILIATION PROCESS : Instead of an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled reconciliation, it had become a U.S.-led and Taliban-controlled process with nobody claiming ownership or responsibility.
- FIXING TIMELINES : Timelines were fixed for the U.S. drawdown by mid-June and for removal of Taliban from the UN Security Council sanctions list by end-May.
- RELEASE OF PRISONERS : The Taliban have released 1,000 members of Afghan security forces and the Afghan authorities have freed over 5,000 Taliban from their custody.
THE TALIBAN FACTOR
- VIOLENCE : Speaking the Doha at the opening session, Afghanistan regretted loss of 12,000 people and another 15,000 injured since end-February.
- SECURITY BREACHES : The number of attacks on government security forces and installations averaged over 80 a week.
- CALIBRATED APPROACH : The Taliban is calibrating its use of violence to harass and undermine the ANDSF [Afghan National Defense and Security Forces] and [the Afghan government].
- PARTIAL VIOLENCE OUTBREAKS : Violence remains within the bounds of the agreement, probably to encourage a U.S. troop withdrawal and set favorable conditions for a post-withdrawal Afghanistan.
- RISE OF TERRORISM : The report expressed scepticism about whether the Taliban had cut ties with al Qaeda and stated that “the Islamic State-Khorasan maintains the ability to conduct mass casualty attacks.
- HAQQANI NETWORK : The leader of the Haqqani Network, Sirajuddin Haqqani happens to be on the U.S. wanted list with a reward of $10 million for information leading to his capture or death.
- SETTLING DOWN NOTIONS : U.S. considers the Taliban a partner in counter-terrorism operations against the IS and other terrorist groups.
- DEMOGRAPHIC NEEDS : The current reality is that 74% of Afghan population is below 30 and has lived, for most part, in a conservative but open society.
- SOFT TARGETS : Senior members of the Afghan government continue to be targeted including Vice President .
MAJOR POWERS, FINITE INTEREST
- EXIT OPPORTUNITY : The reality is major powers have limited interests. For the U.S.,the peace talks provide U.S. President Donald Trump an exit opportunity weeks before his re-election bid.
- FINANCIAL DISTRIBUTION : The European Union has made it clear that its financial contribution will depend on the security environment and the human rights record.
- GEO POLTICAL INTERESTS : China can always lean on Pakistan to preserve its security and connectivity interests.
- SECURING BORDERS : For Russia, blocking the drug supply and keeping its southern periphery secure from extremist influences is key.
EVOLVING INDIAN STAND
- ECONOMIC INTERESTS : Afghanistan serves India’s security and economic interests.
- BALANCING RESOURCES : 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.
- NURTURING DEMOCRACY : 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.
- STRATEGIC INTEREST : India’s interest in Afghanistan relates to its need to reduce Pakistani influence in the region.
- FOSTERING RELATIONS : New Delhi needs Kabul to get a better view of Islamabad and hence it is pertinent that it fosters positive relations.
- HEART OF ASIA : For access to the landlocked Central Asian countries that border Afghanistan.
- INDIA’S VISION : It is a sovereign, united, stable, plural and democratic Afghanistan is one that is shared by a large constituency in Afghanistan, cutting across ethnic and provincial lines.
An unstable backyard is not only detrimental to India’s larger strategic interests abroad and future goals but can also impact its internal security.Taliban must, in turn, acknowledge the changed reality of today’s Afghanistan.
SOURCES: THE HINDU EDITORIAL HUNT | India’s Afghan Policy and Relations  | UPSC