India’s role key to sustainable peace in Afghanistan

Afghanistan and India enjoy a cordial, positive relationship and share many deep cultural, social, and economic ties—ranging from Afghans’ love for Indian music and film, to strong trade and technology sharing, to medical tourism that goes back decades.
For the modern, post-Taliban Afghanistan, India has been a steadfast partner ever since reestablishing ties with the country after the 2002 Bonn Agreement. India has supported Afghans with roughly $3 billion in development assistance, far more than it has provided to any other nation.
This assistance has taken the form of scholarships to students, much-needed infrastructure and transportation projects, medical teams to treat and heal Afghans, and building institutional capacities at the ministry level.
Since efforts for lasting peace in Afghanistan has been intensified by Afghan government, its regional and international allies in recent years, India’s role has been considered key to achieving such goal.
Chairman of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, who is on a five-day visit in India, said recently that the country could play a “vital role” for peace in Afghanistan.
“India can play a vital role in establishing lasting peace in Afghanistan and the region. India has shown support to the first direct engagement between the Afghan government and Taliban, while underlining its concerns about possible use of Afghan soil for violence against others,” he said after meeting with India’s Modi and National Security Advisor.
During the Afghan delegation’s visit, Indian top officials expressed commitment to a “permanent cease-fire” in Afghanistan.
Indeed, India can play a greater role in the region for peace and stability. A big coalition of neighbors and regional powers, including both Pakistan and India, need to support a negotiated outcome for an Afghan peace agreement to be sustainable. India can engage with other Afghanistan neighbors and the states of Central Asia to discuss preferred outcomes, redlines, and areas of mutual concern while encouraging states to support a process that leads to sustainable peace and to refrain from actions that could undermine the durability of the peace process.
India with supporting the Afghan-led talks, can make it clear that it does not seek proxy conflict with Pakistan within a peaceful Afghanistan. Though unlikely, India and Pakistan would ideally have a quiet backchannel dialogue about their expectations and agree to do no harm to a sustainable Afghan peace.
Even if they both support a negotiated outcome to Afghanistan’s civil war, Pakistan and India will likely not share specific interests. But how they choose to behave can bolster the chances of an acceptable outcome that reduces terrorism and violent extremism in the region, can keep Afghanistan from being a base for international terrorism, and can bring desperately needed peace to Afghans after more than four decades of violent conflict and political and economic instability. A stable Afghanistan can be an economic boon to both countries and the region as a whole

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