Afghanistan: An area of rivalry

Feb 14, 2017
By M.K. Bhadrakumar
As India tiptoes toward the six-nation conference on Afghanistan in Moscow on Wednesday — comprising Russia, China, India, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan — a new process is beginning with regard to regional security. Quintessentially, a novel regional format is in the making. Kabul's participation in such a process will give it added international legitimacy. 
However, issues remain, which can be put into three clusters. At the most obvious level, it needs to be understood at the outset that India happens to be the odd man out in this proposed regional format. India is not quite there where the rest of the grouping has reached as regards perceptions regarding Taliban. The regional consensus — as indeed international consensus — is that Taliban's reconciliation, being an Afghan entity, is the key to an enduring settlement. Also, there is consensus that the prolongation of the war makes no sense, and the stalemate cannot be broken except through political means.
All the other five countries participating in the Moscow meet maintain contacts with the Taliban in one way or another and they are willing to acknowledge it, too. India, therefore, needs a reality check: How long can it bury the head in the sand and insist on the imperative of waging a robust war against the Taliban when others tend to see the conflict more as fratricidal strife?
Second, there is no gainsaying the fact that Pakistan has a key role to play in an enduring Afghan settlement. Even Iran, which has been at loggerheads with Pakistan over the Afghan situation, has harmonised its stance with Pakistan. Again, India is a solitary exception. From the second half of the nineties, India began viewing the Afghan situation in zero sum terms - although Taliban or the al-Qaeda operating out of Afghanistan — never perpetrated terrorist acts on Indian soil. 
Read more at:
The Tribune, February 14, 2017

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