Afghan Peace Talks: Revisiting the Indian and Pakistani Stakes in Afghanistan
For the first time in the last seventeen years of war in Afghanistan, peace agreement looks possible. After the six days of continuous deliberations in Doha, both sides, Taliban leaders and Zalmay Khalilzad (US Special representative and the chief American negotiator) seemed hopeful regarding the peace deal. But we should not be so optimistic regarding the same yet, as Khalilzad said, “Meetings here were more productive than they have been in the past. We made significant progress on vital issues”. He rightly added, “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”. Negotiators are still miles to go, as different challenges are still hovering over the same because Afghanistan is no longer an intra-state conflict, it has long ago taken the shape of inter-state conflict involving multiple international actors.
As peace deal with the Taliban seems an agreed only option by the global powers, after it clearly seemed to the United States that the Afghan war can’t be solved with bombs and guns, what this peace deal with the Taliban means to India and Pakistan, will be interesting to see.
Since the fall of the Taliban, India has heavily invested in Afghanistan and has also given $3 billion in Aid to Afghanistan. India is not the part of the peace process with the Taliban as India still doesn’t consider them the legitimate stakeholders of the Afghan people/society. Although, in November 2018, India participated in the peace talks in Moscow, changing the decade’s old policy, but India isn’t part of the peace process between the US and the Taliban. Moscow led peace process isn’t so much important because Russia isn’t the direct party of the current Afghan conflict. The US and the Taliban are still Head-to-Head in Afghanistan, so the peace process between these two matter the most, of which India is far away (emphasis added), because of multiple reasons, first, Pakistan doesn’t want India to be the part of the talks, the US respects the Pakistani view most, at least in this matter, and does not want to annoy Pakistan, if they do that, they understand that the talks will not go anywhere, second, India does not recognize the Taliban as a legitimate force.
So, the question arises what will happen to the Indian involvement, investment, and aid to Afghanistan. Will it all be in vain once the peace deal with the Taliban is reached? Will India still maintain its diplomatic ties with the new Afghan government, which will include the Taliban forces in near future? Will India immediately lose a neighbour to Pakistan, which it never wants. Nobody is having the absolute answers for these questions, only time will tell.
Pakistan has been at odds in Afghanistan at least since the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. Pakistan vehemently supported the Afghan guerillas with the help of Saudi Arabia and the United States against the Soviet forces in Afghanistan and was successful in getting the ‘Strategic Depth’ they wanted in their immediate neighbourhood. Since then the relations between t