Amid the evolving negotiations between the US and the Taliban that could bring the hardline Islamist militia in a power-sharing deal, India has batted for bolstering democratic forces in Afghanistan and underlined that the presidential elections in the country should be held on time.
“It is important that the presidential elections in Afghanistan take place as per the schedule,” Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson of India’s Ministry of External Affairs, told reporters in New Delhi on January 31. He was responding to questions on India’s position on the ongoing US-Taliban talks.
The Indian government, he also said, has emphasized that for enduring peace and stability in Afghanistan, the terrorist safe havens and sanctuaries need to be eliminated.
The US’ attempt to forge a deal with the Taliban has sparked concerns in India about its potential implications for security of the country as New Delhi fears that in case of a Taliban takeover, Afghanistan could be used a launching pad for terror attacks against India.
It’s not just India, but key regional players are also expected to readjust their approach on how to deal with the prospect of political mainstreaming of the Taliban that is the subject of speculation. While India has consistently been wary of the Taliban and has drawn red lines on the Taliban reconciliation, given the changing scenario India may have to revisit its stand that extremists should not be a part of the political mainstream in Afghanistan.
India is concerned that in its haste to leave Afghanistan, the US may end up striking a deal with the Taliban, which could give them a stake in the Afghan political dispensation. India has also impressed upon the international community that the elections in Afghanistan, scheduled for July, are not derailed under any circumstances.
This indeed is a sticky situation for India given the fact that for Afghanistan needs an all-inclusive approach which necessarily mean factoring in the presence of the Taliban as well.
However, the fact that both India and Afghanistan have a shared threat from Pakistan and a stable Afghanistan is very vital for India’s stability as well, makes it vital for India recalibrate its strategy vis-à-vis Taliban reconciliation and the US-Taliban talks.
India is closely watching how the evolving US-Taliban deal will eventually shape up. “The Taliban have committed, to our satisfaction, to do what is necessary that would prevent Afghanistan from ever becoming a platform for international terrorist groups or individuals,” Zalmay Khalilzad, United States representative for Reconciliation in Afghanistan, said after the initial rounds of talks with the Taliban.
The US envoy also indicated an agreement in principle on the eventual withdrawal of some 14,000 U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan in return for the Taliban guarantee that the Afghan territory would never be used by terrorists — including al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.
However, there are voices of dissent from around the world considering the lack of the Afghan government’s participation in these talks. Critics have accused the US administration for seeking an early exit without including direct negotiations with the government there, a step that the Taliban have been averting for too long. The threat of Taliban having an active (or even passive) participation in the political set up is looming large over the war-torn country.
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