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Maximizing the NSA Meet on Afghanistan
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Lt Gen Prakash Katoch | Date:09 Nov , 2021 0 Comments
Lt Gen Prakash Katoch
is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army.

Ajit Kumar Doval, National Security Advisor to Prime Minister Narendra Modi

India is hosting a NSA-level meet on Afghanistan on November 10. The conference had reportedly been planned in April 2021 with participation of the Ashraf Ghani government much before the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan but was delayed because of the second wave of COVID-19.

The invitees for the forthcoming meet include Russia, Iran, China, Central Asian Republics and Pakistan. Pakistan’s NSA Moeed Yusuf told the media on November 2 that he will not attend the meeting being hosted by India to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. He said, “I will not be going. A spoiler (indirect reference to India) cannot try to be a peacemaker.”

Our media has quoted an unnamed government official saying, “Pakistan has indicated through the media that it will not attend. Pakistan’s decision is unfortunate, but not surprising. It reflects its mindset of viewing Afghanistan as its protectorate.” Another official described Yusuf’s refusal to attend the meet at New Delhi “an unsuccessful attempt to deflect attention from its pernicious role in Afghanistan”.

Otherwise there have been positive responses to the invite by Russia, Iran and the Central Asian Republics but no response from China. There are expectations that NSAs from Russia, Iran, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan will participate in the meet. China may not join the meet even virtually. This would be hardly surprising given the increased aggressive stance of China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) amid the ongoing standoff and China’s new Border Law which is aimed at legalizing Beijing’s illegal territorial claims and makes future negotiations on the border settlement with India that much more difficult.

Significantly, the just released annual US Department of Defence (DoD) report on military developments involving China has mentioned the new 100-houses village developed by China in Arunachal Pradesh during the India-China border standoff since last year. This was mentioned in Indian media also but not acknowledged by the government.

While upping its proxy war on India, Pakistan has been trying to open a dialogue with India for past several months. The conference on November 10 was an opportunity for Pakistan to send its NSA to India for discussing Afghanistan and even seek a bilateral discussion with his Indian counterpart on the sidelines of the meet. But Pakistan has shied away from the opportunity to open a dialogue with India because of its own guilty conscience; being the architect of the mess in Afghanistan and continuing to generate and export terrorism.

It is quite evident that Pakistan’s sympathies are with the Taliban, not with the miseries of the people of Afghanistan who amid the country’s financial crisis are battling hunger, lack of medicines and medical facilities, and the approaching harsh winter. This is indicative of Islamabad refusing India’s request for land access to send 50,000 tons of food aid to Afghanistan; living up to its reputation of being the ‘dog in the manger’. While extending all possible support to Taliban Pakistan wants the Taliban to mediate actively in brokering a truce with the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).  Pakistan claims a temporary truce has been brokered but it is unlikely to last.

Since October 31, Pakistan has refused to allow the use of its airspace for the international Srinagar-Sharjah flight which was inaugurated by India on October 23, forcing the flights to take a longer route. Obviously, Pakistan cares little for the people of Kashmir despite its illegal territorial claims, as also the people of UAE ignoring Pakistan-UAE relations. India has asked Pakistan to continue granting over-flight clearance for the Srinagar-Sharjah flight in the interest of people who have booked tickets for the route. However, there is little chance of Pakistan allowing it.

The main focus of the NSA-level meet would naturally be on Afghanistan with discussions likely to include the following:

    • Terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan and the terrorist threat to India, Iran and Central Asia.
    • Quantum of humanitarian aid required by the Afghan populace and whether it can reach them without interference and adjuration of the Taliban regime.
    • Safety of foreign nationals in Afghanistan and Afghan nationals considered anti-Taliban by the Taliban regime.
    • Evacuation of foreign nationals from Afghanistan and Afghan nationals who want to leave for fear of Taliban.
    • Rehabilitation of Afghan refugees.
    • Taliban plan for infiltrating terrorists in foreign countries in the garb of refugees.
    • Continued human rights violations in Afghanistan including summary executions and ethnic cleansing of non-Pashtuns, in addition to their properties being seized and awarded to terrorists and their families.
    • Status of women and girls under the Taliban regime.
    • Taliban ideology and ‘inclusivity’ of the interim Taliban regime.
    • Future of weapon platforms, weapons and armament abandoned by the US-NATO forces in Afghanistan, their use by the Taliban and other terrorist organizations and Taliban putting these up for sale.
    • The spurt in narcotics being smuggled out of Afghanistan post the Taliban takeover.
    • Recognition to the Taliban regime, if at all, should first be by the United Nations – this should be mandatory.
    • Facilitating humanitarian aid by India to Afghanistan via Chabahar with Pakistan denying access to the land route.
    • Pakistan’s role in the fall of the Panjshir Valley.
    • Role of Pakistan and China in perpetuating the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

For past decade plus, delegations from Central Asian Republics visiting India were of the view that to stop terrorism in Afghanistan establishment of a UN Force on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border was essential since the source of terrorism and support to the Taliban lay in Pakistan. However, this was not possible because two parties have to agree for such a UN Force and Pakistan would never agree to this arrangement.

As for Russia and Iran, they are well aware why they had to support the erstwhile Northern Alliance during the previous Taliban rule in Afghanistan. The ideology of Taliban remains the same and its acts will also remain the same. In fact, the Taliban already appear to be indirectly conveying the message that not giving recognition to their interim government would have consequences – safety of nationals of concerned countries and their assets-interests in Afghanistan?

There is a large concentration of terrorist cadres on the border of Afghanistan with Central Asia particularly in the Badakhshan region whether as part of the new Great Game in Afghanistan or otherwise. Because of this, Russia has been conducting military exercises with Central Asian Republics. Iran has been facing cross-border terror attacks primarily from Pakistan, which are continuing. As for India, Pakistan had moved its anti-India terrorist training camps into Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover and has upped its proxy war on India.

NSA Ajit Doval assisted by his team of the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) will likely be discussing hardcore security issues in the region at the NSA-level meet and identify likely challenges that respective security set ups will face in the near future. The issues to be addressed should not only be terrorist havens in Afghanistan but in the Af-Pak region with continued indulgence of Pakistan.

The forum on November 10 must therefore acknowledge that Pakistan was, is, and will continue to remain the main problem threatening security of the region unless something is done and the time has come to take the bull by the horns. This requires detailed deliberations. A dispassionate analysis may arrive at the conclusion that the solution may well be the balkanization of Pakistan. This could be discussed in a ‘classified’ session by the forum.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

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