By: Azhar Azam
Once Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani crossed the last barrier to the long-delayed peace talks with the Afghan Taliban in Doha and signed off a ruling to allow the release of the final bunch prisoners, a new wave of violence and terrorist incidents rocked Afghanistan.
After a swarm of rockets jarred Kabul and took three lives with one of the projectiles slammed into Arg presidential palace, housing several embassies and NATO headquarters, at least 14 pro-government “Public Uprising Forces” were also killed on August 20 in Takhar province. The Taliban have yet to comment on the attack.
Earlier, a top-ranking government employee Abdul Baqi Amin, who was part of Afghan delegation that held several rounds of talks with Taliban in Qatari capital on reducing violence and women rights, was snuffed out in a car blast. Amin’s killing followed an assassination attempt on Fawzia Koofi, another member of the Afghan negotiating team.
While experts linked the recent attacks as an attempt to sabotage the Afghan peace process and Taliban leaders condemned the assaults on peace and rights activists, it is important that both the warring parties keep their head cool and do not deflect the attention from crucial peace consultations.
It is, nevertheless, equally essential for the deal brokers, particularly the U.S., to closely observe the proceedings and scrutinize regional elements that feel themselves isolated from the positive developments in Afghanistan, believing that that the actualization of intra-Afghan dialogue could stymie their strategic regional objectives.
New Delhi gained phenomenal clout after 9/11 through three billion U.S. dollars of investments but its indecision to respond on Washington suggestion to engage with Taliban makes it at odds with its ally. The U.S. Special Representative to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad in his brief visit to India in May said that such an engagement would be “appropriate” for India.
Indian defense experts have warned that the return of Taliban and Afghan peace process would affect New Delhi interests and weaken its position in Kabul given the alleged Islamabad influence on the armed faction, latter’s role in future security arrangements, broadening of Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and growing Iran-China-Pakistan axis in Afghanistan.
The cautious support for the reconciliation exercise cast a pall over India’s determination for an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned intra-Afghan dialogue, seen vital by all the stakeholders and global powers for a sustainable peace and stability in the graveyard of empires, region and the world over.
New Delhi’s wariness toward the Taliban has pushed it to denounce India for playing a negative role in Afghanistan and supporting terrorists. Pakistan too has also long indicted its rival for launching terrorist activities on its soil from Afghanistan, urging the international community “to be watchful of the role and machination of spoilers working against establishment of lasting peace in Afghanistan.”
Two Indian analysts wrote in Foreign Policy that “India’s Afghanistan policy is not driven by ideological or humanitarian concerns” but by a desire to limit Islamabad’s influence. It denotes that New Delhi’s economic and military assistance to Kabul was harbored by an underlying cause to erode Islamabad’s security, raise the roof between the two nations and disrupt China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) expansion to the neighborhood.
Quick evacuation of four Indian citizens from Afghanistan following Pakistan, with China help, approached the United Nations Security Council with complete dossiers and overwhelming evidence about their involvement in terrorism.
Heinous killing of 25 Sikhs in March near the gate of crematorium in Kabul by an Indian national and New Delhi’s failed lobbying to prevent the condemnation of terrorist attack on Pakistan Stock Exchange should sensitize the international peacemakers.
Prevalent poverty and endemic unemployment in Afghanistan is a seduction for India to exploit the vulnerable youth against Pakistan. As Islamabad and Beijing make efforts to integrate CPEC, a BRI limb, with Kabul to decompress stark domestic economic challenges – New Delhi’s shot at the peace and prosperity of the battle-weary country would push it into an unprecedented syndrome.
India shouldn’t paint CPEC or its roadmap of its mother plan a threat and must stop spreading myths about it. The project isn’t designed militarily to circumscribe any country; it is purely an infrastructure blueprint that shaves off the risk of conflicts by strengthening bilateral cooperation, increasing trade, reducing transit time and lowering logistic expenses, opening up new vistas of socio-economic development.
The operationalizing of the Gwadar port is providing a relief to Afghanistan by swiftly dispatching more than 10,000 food containers, stranded at Karachi ports over lockdowns and closure of the western border. With participation in BRI, Kabul would be able to create extinct jobs, channelize the ebullient youth energies in productive activities and improve its grim economic outlook.
As the whole world embraces the BRI and it opens gates of the landlocked Central Asia, Beijing-conceived wider connectivity program is becoming a global asset.
So, India needs to stop seeing China-Pakistan joint efforts to restore peace and stability in Afghanistan with conventional imprudence and should support any initiative that could pull back the grief-stricken state from pits of despair while returning to the process of dialogue to settle all the disputes.
Azhar Azam works in a private organization as a market & business analyst and writes about geopolitical issues and regional conflicts. The article reflects the author’s opinions, and a copy of which has been appeared in CGTN.