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Q10. To what extent do you agree that interacting with the Taliban is critical to India's strategy towards Afghanistan? Explain. (250s words)

Paper & Topic: GS II à India & its Neighbourhood – Relations

 

  • Model Answer:

 

  • Introduction:

 

  • Many external variables influence India's Afghan strategy, including its geographic limits, its pursuit for a transit route to Central Asia via Afghanistan and Iran, its tense relationship with Pakistan, the growing threat of terrorism in India and Afghanistan, and Trump's policies.
  • India's "secret visit" to Doha to speak with the Taliban, confirmed by Qatar's special envoy for counterterrorism and conflict resolution, Mutlaq bin Majed al-Qahtani, indicates a significant shift in India's policy to Afghanistan.

 

  • Body:

 

  • India's long-standing stance on the Taliban:

 

  • New Delhi has refused to deal with the Taliban for decades.
  • India was one of the countries that refused to acknowledge the Taliban authority, which ruled from 1996 to 2001.
  • India was concerned about the Taliban's growth, assuming early on that it was being fueled by Pakistan's army and the ISI.
  • The group's reliance on Pakistan, religious extremism, and backing for transnational jihadists, notably Kashmir-focused organisations, are the key reasons for India's continued isolation.
  • The hijacking of Indian Airlines aircraft IC-814 in Kandahar compelled India to negotiate.
  • It assisted anti-Taliban forces in Afghanistan at other periods.
  • Throughout the 1990s, India provided military and financial support to the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, which was fighting the Pakistan-backed Taliban administration.
  • In the meantime, the 9/11 attacks occurred, as did the US crackdown that led to the Taliban regime's demise.
  • When the Taliban resurfaced in 2006-07 to pose a new threat to US forces, India stated unequivocally that it would not negotiate with them.

 

  • There are a number of reasons why India should cooperate with the Taliban:

 

  • The United States' shrinking role: Following former US President Barack Obama's unilateral announcement that the US would withdraw its soldiers from the conflict-torn country, a period of adjustment is required.
  • Following six days of meetings in Doha, the US and Afghan Taliban reached a "framework" agreement.
  • The Afghan war has now surpassed the Vietnam War as the United States' longest war.
  • The fight has not only gotten more fierce over time, but it has also gotten more convoluted.

 

  • Afghan government control:

 

  • The Afghan government controls only half of the nation, with the Taliban controlling one-sixth and the rest contested.
  • The increasing depletion of Afghan security forces as a result of casualties, desertions, and a growing reluctance to join is the most significant.
  • Afghanistan started the Kabul Process for Peace and Security Cooperation and offered the Taliban an unfettered discussion.
  • His approach was rejected by the Taliban, who stated that they would only engage in direct discussions with Americans.
  • Additionally, India's outreach to the Taliban could hasten the fall of Kabul and complicate India's relations with its current partners.

 

  • Increased Taliban attacks:

 

  • There has been a recent rise in bloodshed, with the Taliban launching a series of coordinated assaults across Afghanistan, rejecting President Hamid Karzai's offer of a three-month ceasefire, and laying siege to Ghazni city.
  • According to UN figures, the violence this year has put 2018 on track to be the worst year for Afghan civilians, with an average of nine people murdered every day.

 

  • The Pakistan factor:

 

  • Cooperation among regional players is a big challenge.
  • Only a multilateral structure incorporating the US, as well as significant regional actors such as Pakistan, Russia, Iran, China, India, and Saudi Arabia, can bring peace to Afghanistan and the region.
  • The Pakistani leadership is not cutting down assistance for Taliban fighters after six months of relentless American punitive operations against Islamabad.
  • Pakistan's involvement will grow dramatically, with the US relying on it to carry out the interim agreement. For Pakistan, this will be a diplomatic success.

 

  • The Iran factor:

 

  • The United States' collision course with Iran is yet another impediment to the implementation of its South Asia policy.
  • Iran shares borders with Afghanistan and Pakistan, therefore any action taken against Tehran will have ramifications throughout the region.
  • The US is also against Iran, which is crucial for giving landlocked Afghanistan access to the sea through Chabahar port, which is in India's interests, among other things. • • There is no guarantee that anti-
  • India extremists will not utilise Afghan land, but it has made it clear that it will not back such elements.
  • The Taliban's outreach in Doha has instilled cautious optimism among Indian officials that the Taliban may not be openly hostile, and may even desire stronger ties in the medium term, as they strive to avoid becoming caught in the crossfire between India and Pakistan.

 

  • Why should India cooperate with the Taliban:

 

  • The Taliban recognises India's positive contribution in Afghanistan and does not want its diplomatic presence to be reduced.
  • If the Islamic republic fails, India's absence from the Taliban's calculations will make it even more expendable.
  • India's backing for Kabul and the strengthening of ties with power brokers like Marshall Dostum, Muhammad Mohaqiq, Ustad Atta, Ahmad Massoud, Ismail Khan, Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, Hamid Karzai, and others decreases the chance of severing ties with current friends.
  • If India wants a politically inclusive Afghanistan and wants to create relationships with all ethnic groups, it needs to be honest with the Taliban.
  • India's approach to the Taliban may complicate Pakistan's relations with the Taliban once the latter gains power and is confronted with governance and administration pressures.

 

  • Steps to take:

 

  • Because the United States will eventually withdraw as Afghanistan's peacekeeper, extensive bilateral negotiations should be held to assist Afghanistan according to its own needs.
  • India has always been a strong supporter of Afghan democracy.
  • Soft Power can be used to further programmes ranging from telecommunications to education and community development.
  • The wisest route for India in Afghanistan is to pursue its own regional policy rather than become a part of another country's.
  • India must work to strengthen Afghan people' and institutions' capacities and capabilities in areas like as governance and public service delivery, socioeconomic infrastructure development, life security, and livelihood promotion.
  • SAARC, which has been dormant for some time, must now be reactivated in order to strengthen regional cooperation in South Asia.

 

  • Tier-II diplomacy and incorporating other stakeholders:
  • India, which has long opposed discussions with the Taliban, has finally dispatched two retired diplomats to join them at the Moscow peace talks on a 'non-official level.'
  • Continuing efforts to build big infrastructure projects, providing military weapons and training to Afghan forces on the sidelines.
  • Using regional organisations such as the SCO to confront terrorism emerging from Afghanistan.
  • India has stated that the peace process must be "Afghanled, Afghan-owned, and Afghan-controlled," echoing the Afghan position.

 

  • Conclusion:
  • At this moment, dissent or a lack of ambition in the India-Afghanistan relationship would be far more damaging to India's interests than the Taliban's return to Afghanistan's political center-stage.
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