Follow @southasiaanalys

Afghan Taliban Should not be Engaged by India in any Dialogue Process.

Paper No.6587                       Dated 29-May-2020

By Dr Subhash Kapila

India should engage the Afghan Taliban only when they make two public official statements that Kashmir is an ‘Integral Part of India’ and secondly, that Afghan Taliban is committed to the creation of Greater Afghanistan incorporating Pashtun Areas of Pakistan’s borderlands.

Preposterous the above may sound but such declarations would be an acid test for the Afghan Taliban to prove its political credentials in that the Afghan Taliban is no longer a stooge of the Pakistan Army and has emerged as an independent entity striving for the greater good of Afghanistan security, stability, and sustainable peace in Afghanistan.

Short of that, it would be difficult for countries like India with an impeccable record of reconstruction of war-ravaged Afghanistan both due to its historical links with the Afghan people and India’s legitimate security interest in Afghanistan’s secure future, to engage the Afghan Taliban.

In 2020, the geopolitical equations in Afghanistan realistically draw the following sequential pattern---we have the Afghan Taliban beholden to the Pakistan Army, we have the Pakistan Army beholden to China and more significantly we have China now on the ‘war-path’ against the United States.

 It makes me wonder as to why the US political leaders and US policy establishment are ‘unable to join the dots’ sequentially and come to a logical deduction of not parleying with Afghan Taliban.

The Indian political leadership and policy establishment can never even in their wildest dreams expect that by engaging the Afghan Taliban under current US behest that the Afghan Taliban when in shared governance in Kabul will advance India’s legitimate security interests in Afghanistan. So why engage them?

India has no compulsions like the United States to stumble into uncharted and unpredictable waters of engaging with the Afghan Taliban----an entity which Pakistan Army created when PM Benazir Bhutto was in power to pre-empt India establishing itself firmly in Afghanistan.

 The Afghan Taliban not only devastated Afghanistan to please their Pakistan Army masters by imposing medieval Islamic fundamentalist regime but more significantly created Afghanistan into the “Mecca of Global Terrorism” from where sprung the Pakistan Army-facilitated horrific 9/11 attacks on the citadels of power in US Homeland.

In tandem, the Afghan Taliban facilitated disparate Islamic Jihadi groups to launch terrorism and suicide bombings in Kashmir without respite from Afghan areas under their control. In other words, the Afghan Taliban was Pakistan’s ‘proxy agents’ to destabilise Indian security forces in Kashmir Valley.

The United States can transactionally overlook the terrible 9/11 bombings forcing US military intervention in end-2001 to displace the Afghan Taliban regime in Kabul but India with its original Kashmir Territory bordering Afghanistan can ill-afford Kabul under shared governance of the Afghan Taliban to continue to espouse Islamic Jihad in Kashmir Valley.

One can foresee that if the Afghan Taliban is brought into sharing political power in Kabul, it would not be long that the Afghan Taliban under orders from Pakistan Army would ‘wreck from within’ the fragile democratic structures put into place by United States in last 17 years.

India has survived Talibanised Afghanistan and India would have out-survived a Talibanised Pakistan even as my Papers of that time argued incessantly and when similar pressures were being placed on India to be accommodative of Pakistan Army sensitivities on Kashmir and Afghanistan.

India would presently be well-advised not to engage the Afghan Taliban directly in any talks as stressed by US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad on his recent visit to Delhi. Curiously, the same was repeated by the Pakistan Ambassador in the United States.

In my earlier writings I have stressed that US Special Envoy Khalilzad is not an ‘honest broker’ when it comes to engage Afghan Taliban. His over-reliance on Pakistan Army to pressurise Afghan Taliban for a peace-deal nudges him to tilt towards Pakistan Army narratives on Afghanistan.

 US Special Envoy Khalilzad has been in a tearing hurry to stitch up some agreement on a peace deal incorporating the Afghan Taliban in the governing establishment in Kabul. That is the Afghan Taliban demand as a minimum to support some sort of sustainable peace in Afghanistan.

The Afghan Taliban has offered no credible assurances to honour the so-called Peace Deal and nor has the Pakistan Army advanced any ‘gilt-edged guarantees’ on behalf of the Afghan Taliban.

The US hurry to arrive at even a ‘patchwork deal in Afghanistan which could facilitate withdrawal of US Forces as the final leg of Presidential Elections campaigning nearing soon is understandable as an election year domestic political compulsions.

But then there is the larger question that hovers over the horizon and that is whether the Afghan Taliban can be relied upon to honour all the provisions of the Peace Deal so hurriedly patched up under shadow of an election year? All pointers are to the contrary.

Concluding, it needs to be forcefully asserted that India has no domestic political or even geopolitical compulsions which should egg-on India to follow the current US blueprint of engaging the Afghan Taliban. In fact India’s image would suffer a severe dent if it engaged the Afghan Taliban because in Afghan people’s perceptions India is held in high-esteem because of its principled policies in Afghanistan.