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Why in news:

  •       Afghanistan’s Loya Jirga, a grand assembly of senior politicians and tribal and religious leaders had a four-day meeting, for a ceasefire between government troops and the Taliban underscores the mood in Kabul. Afghanistan’s leaderswants to resolve the 17-year-long conflict. The Jirga asked the government to set up a negotiating team with members from the assembly for talks with the insurgents.

Details:

  •       The Taliban group controls half of Afghanistan and has shown its capacity to strike anywhere, including in the most fortified of locations.
  •       It has also been engaged in direct talks with the U.S. for months.
  •       But the peace talks haven’t prevented the Taliban from carrying its offense against the government.
  •       By rejecting the Loya Jirga proposal, the Taliban has once again made it clear that it is not ready yet to engage with the government in Kabul.
  •       The U.S. seeks an assurance that Afghanistan will not provide a safe haven to transnational terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.
  •       The government lacks the resources to accomplish either.
  •       It cannot defeat the Taliban militarily, as the 17 years of the war suggest.
  •       It cannot forge peace on the Taliban’s terms as it would mean endangering whatever few freedoms the Afghans enjoy right now.

Background:

Afghanistan

  •       Afghanistan, located in South Asia, is a landlocked country bordered by Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China.
  •       Afghanistan has a strategic location and it connected the cultures of the Middle East and other parts of Asia by the Silk Road.
  •       Much of Afghanistan’s territory covers the Hind Kush range that stretches along Afghanistan-Pakistan border and has been historically a significant sector of Buddhism and acted as a passageway during the invasions of the Indian subcontinent. It is still important during modern era warfare in the nation.
  •       The 2430km long Durand line, established in 1896, is the international border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is described very dangerous from a geopolitical and geostrategic perspective and, lot of insurgency and other related activities has occurred across the porous border for years.
  • India-Afghanistan: Security interests
  •       India faced many security challenges from the Taliban in Afghan during the 1990s.
  •       Pakistan has raised and supported several militant groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen/Harkat-ul-Ansar, and Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami among others, which operate in India.
  •       All of these groups have trained in Afghanistan, with varying proximity to the Taliban and by extension al-Qaeda.
  •       Thus India is absolutely adamant that Afghanistan should not again become a terrorist safe haven.
  •       Radical ideologies and terrorism spreading in this region are a security threat for India.
  •       With Pakistan increasing its strategic depth in Afghan, it can reverse the gain of India in Afghan brought through much cost. Pakistan can incubate and move around various anti-India groups in Afghan especially in Loya Paktia.
  •       The golden crescent comprising of Iran, Afghan, and Pakistan is a worry for India, especially with respect to the issue of drug abuse in Punjab.
  •       Islamic State is using Afghan as an outpost in Asia as it comes under stress in Iraq and Syria.

Moscow Format

  •       It was a meeting of world leaders, held in Moscow, Russia, in November 2018, to discuss future of Afghan polity, Taliban’s role in it and the Taliban’s acceptability among world leaders.
  •        Earlier the meeting was called off due to non-participation of the Afghan government, this time meeting was open also to non-government representatives.
    Deliberations took place on a number of issues surrounding the Taliban and its role in Afghanistan.
  •       The Afghan government did not send any officials, but four members of the Kabul-based High Peace Council (HPC) attended the event.
  •       India was represented in ‘Moscow Format’ by former diplomats non-officially. The choice of delegates allowed India and Afghanistan distance and deniability about the Taliban.

India-Afghanistan: Economic interests

  •       Afghanistan has a mineral wealth of about $1-3 trillion of Iron ore, Lithium, Chromium, Natural Gas, Petroleum etc.
  •       Safeguarding Indian investments and personnel in Afghan is utmost important to India as Indian investment in Afghan amounts to about $3bn.

India’s soften stand on Taliban

  •       India has always been seeking an “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled” peace process and settlement but as international talks with the Taliban leadership gain momentum India soften its stance.
  •       Recently Taliban offer dialogue, promising to safeguard India’s investments in Chabahar and promises to protect minorities, including Hindus and Sikhs, in Afghanistan.
  •       Also, US announced its withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan which made India worried about the prospect of chaos and civil war, akin to the scene after the previous U.S. pullout in the early 1990s that cut India out and brought the Taliban to power in Kabul with Pakistan’s support.
  •       It is felt that it is time India recognized and negotiated with the Taliban to protect its huge investments
  •       Geopolitically  non-involvement of India in talk with Taliban would consolidate Pakistan’s position in the future of Afghanistan which already has good relations with the Taliban
  •       World over, Russia and Iran also soften its earlier stand over the Taliban and engage in peace talks

Way forward:

  •       This resource deficit can be bridged only with the help of the international community. The U.Swhich is in talks with the Taliban, should not overlook the interests of Kabul, It must put pressure on the Taliban to cease hostilities and engage with Mr. Ghani’s government.
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