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Afghan-Taliban Peace Talks (14 September 2020)

Afghan-Taliban Peace Talks (14 September 2020)

Why in News:

The Afghan government and the Taliban have begun historic peace talks aimed at ending decades of war though the process is expected to be complex with a lot of factors at play.

Context:

In his remarks at the inauguration ceremony of these peace talks External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar enunciated India's stand that peace process must be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled.

Background:

The conflict in Afghanistan is the longest in US history, killing tens of thousands of Afghan civilians and more than 2,400 American troops. But despite the US-led war on terror, Taliban have survived, aided by the support and strategic depth they have received in neighbouring Pakistan.

In February, the Donald Trump administration reached an agreement setting out a timetable for withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from Taliban.

The Peace Talk took place one day after the 19th anniversary of the September 11 attacks that changed the world in 2001.

Summary of the Debate

Afghanistan in last 45 years:

  • Over the last 45 years and more Afghanistan has been in a state of complete turmoil.
  • There were 5 distinct political system, The monarchy ended in 1973, it was ousted by Mohammad Daud Khan, a cousin of the King and there came a nationalist dictatorship which was ousted by the communist, They were ousted by the Mujahideen, who in turn were thrown out by the Taliban and then after 9/11 came anew system which led to the establishment of the Islamic Republic but it never worked and over the last 19 years the Taliban have gained in strength.
  • The USA government has been talking to Taliban for some time and Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad reached an understanding with the Taliban leadership. But what was significant was that all these talks excluded Afghan government.
  • It’s the first time the Afghan government delegates are talking to them.

                           

Stake for India in this talk:

  • Indian government has officially now responded to it by External Affairs Minister talking and addressing this particular conference, where he brought in the concerns of India that is the peace process must be ‘Afghan led, Afghan owned and Afghan controlled’ and it must respect national sovereignty and territorial integrity of Afghanistan and most importantly human rights and democracy.
  • It’s a historic because earlier India has never officially tried to negotiate or interact with Taliban but by addressing this particular conference, this probably be the first time when India has officially interacted with the delegation of Taliban and what happens in Afghanistan and the post talks, Afghanistan is extremely crucial to India because Indian has a huge stake in Afghanistan.
  • India enjoys huge goodwill among the Afghan people because of its development works in Afghanistan.
  • After the Afghan peace deal Pakistan might lose its leverage with the US, which India can capitalise on to realign geopolitical interests.
  • Afghanistan is a matter of critical interest for India, but it will be the challenge for India to give the Afghanistan economic support at a time when India’s own economy is facing serious problems because of the COVID crisis.
  • Whatever India was able to achieve in the 1990s to safeguard its interest, that was because India was not alone, there was the Iranians and the Russians and they will not be there this time.

Way Forward:

  • Taliban is an ideological movement and if it comes to power it would try to propagate its ideology not only in Pakistan but also in India and other regional areas.
  • There are a large number of issues that will come because Taliban in governance is a problem as far as India is concerned. India would want a peaceful Afghanistan which is sovereign in control of its own destiny, takes all decision as per its requirements.
  • India can reach out to those elements within Taliban willing to work with it, while preserving Indian interests in Afghanistan.
  • New Delhi must make efforts to bridge the Ghani-Abdullah divide, and bringing together other major leaders with whom India has built ties for decades.

Important points made by the Guests

Vivek Katju, Former Ambassador

  • This peace process has been brought about Americans in particular because they were for sometime completely exhausted in Afghanistan. So, this process is an aspect of their going away from Afghanistan. In 1989, they just left Afghanistan to the tender mercy of Pakistan and the Afghan factions and they were fully aware in 1989 that Mohammad Najibullah Ahmadzai (Former President of Afghanistan) was a growing concern and Najibullah continued for three years. Then in 1992, came the Mujahideen and thereafter the Taliban.
  • Americans have been there for almost 19 years now and they want to go. This time around they are hoping that there will be some understanding reached between the Afghans themselves.
  • The fact of the matter is that the Taliban have been in the ascendant with the assistance of Pakistan and also because they have been able to build a major of support especially among the Pashtuns and other ethnicities too over the last four or five years in particular.
  • That is why on the one hand there is a cohesive Taliban entity, more or less there are also groups there but the leadership is far and far in greater control. On the other hand, there is a group of people representing different Afghan thinking and government as well as opposition and other aspects of Afghan public opinion.
  • So, today there is this attempt going onand it is extremely difficult. There has to be reconciliation in some cases of irreconcilables. If this fails, it will be not good for Afghanistan but it will also not be good for India and the region.
  • Taliban would realize that they can not recreate the conditions of the Islamic emirate of the 1990s, the world will not accept it and the Taliban would have to be prepared to be shunned.

Alok Bansal, Director, India Foundation

  • The first round of talks was exploratory, people were trying to explore as to what is the process. Taliban has probably indicated that they are willing to share power. Abdullah Abdullah has said that One Man One Vote minimum that he expects. So, democracy or electoral system that is what they are going to be insisting on.
  • There are intrinsic differences between the two parties which will create a problem and one of the key figures which will actually create a problem as they move forward is the symbiotic relationship between Al-Qaida and Taliban because Al-Qaida has always talked of waging a jihad under Emir-al-Momineen (Commander of the Faithful), who is Mullah Akhundzada, who is the leader of Taliban. If Taliban actually comes to a negotiated settlement with so called West then Al-Qaida Jihad becomes illegitimate.
  • The Taliban and their world view creates a lot of problems for women, for ethnic minorities for India’s interests because Pakistan has always been wanting that Taliban should be in power, even the previous Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif had said that ‘lasting peace can only come to Afghanistan if Taliban is in power’.

Sushant Sareen, Strategic Affairs Analyst

  • How this power shifting will take place, if there is going to be a power sharing, all those details have not been worked out and when the Taliban say that they are going to give women rights which are guaranteed by Islam, the problem then is fundamental because what is the Taliban interpretation of Islam. Their interpretation of Islam is that a woman cannot step out, cannot work, should not get educated beyond a level.
  • If that is their interpretation of Islamand within that they are willing to give women rights then they were reversing everything which has been gained in Afghanistan over the last 20 years.
  • When the Taliban came in the 1990s, even initially when they came into power, the Americans, the Europeans and many other countries were ready to do business with them. It is only when they started misbehaving, they started their brutality, their savagery and their medievalism came out, that is when people started shunning them.
  • The democrats in America would have probably still embraced them, it was only when the women groups and other started making a protest over what the Taliban were doing then they were pressured into shunning these people. Yet, they kept lines of communication open with them even though they never recognized them.
  • Terrorism was not such a big issue in the mid and early 1990s as it has become now and even some of those countries like UAE and Saudi Arabia which at that point of time were willing to recognize and do business with the Taliban might not do the same now because Taliban was responsible for the murder of UAE Ambassador in Kabul just a couple of years back.

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