Then Associated Press (AP) published a story on 29 August 2010 about how Afghan government officials outed the secret about U.S. talks with the Taliban, which had reached a fairly substantive state. A U.S. diplomatic negotiator (name not revealed) was in talks with a Taliban senior official, Tayyab Aga, for the release of a prisoner, a U.S. army sergeant, Bowe Bergdahl, of Idaho from confinement.
Not only has Pakistan been engulfed in the fire of extremist violence, the Americans are losing patience with Pakistans policy of promoting jihadis for use in Afghanistan and are threatening more drone strikes and other unilateral actions”¦
In turn, the Taliban wanted several of its people to be released from Guantanamo and the Bagram air force base detention centre. But Karzai’s palace officials leaked the word about this U.S. contact with the Taliban, fearing that Karzai would be undermined in the later stages of these negotiations.
Pakistan too wants to be in the fray as General Ashfaque Parvez Kayani held an eight-hour meeting with Senator John Kerry, chair, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in an undisclosed Gulf country. During that meeting, Kayani claimed a larger share of the peace talk pie. How Kerry reacted is not known. But AP recorded, “A U.S. official familiar with the talks said Kayani made a pitch during his marathon meeting with Kerry that Pakistan take on a far larger role in Afghanistan peacemaking.”
The outcome of this meeting will be clearly watched by Karzai government in Kabul and their counterparts in New Delhi. The U.S. is out on a limb on this one. In fact, as the AP reported, the U.S., at the time of the leak, “had already offered small concessions as ‘confidence-building measures,’ . . . They were aimed at developing a rapport and moving talks forward . . . The concessions included treating the Taliban and al-Qaida differently under international sanctions. The Taliban had argued that while al-Qaida is focused on worldwide jihad against the West, Taliban militants have focused on Afghanistan and have shown little interest in attacking targets abroad.” It appears that after the killing of Osama bin Laden, the Taliban has been released from the tribal bondage of supporting al-Qaeda in good times and bad.
In the same vein, one should see Mullah Omar’s Eid message to the Taliban and the world. The message, despite the hyperbole, has three important elements. He first talks about how Afghanistan should have a “real” Islamic regime that is “acceptable to all people of the country.” “All ethnicities will have participation in the regime and portfolios will be dispensed on the basis of merits; [we] will maintain good relations with regional and world countries on the basis of mutual respect, Islamic and national interests.”
India desires that Afghanistan get back control of its own destiny; become secure and stable, without any externally sponsored “˜jihadi politics; and become a gateway for the country to resource-rich Central Asia.
He then talks about his own vision of the country. “Since Afghanistan has vast arable land, rich mines and high potential of energy resources, therefore, we can make investments in these sectors in conditions of peace and stability and wrangle ourselves from the tentacles of poverty, unemployment, backwardness and ignorance, which give rise to other social and economic problems. Contrary to the propaganda launched by the enemies, the policy of the Islamic Emirate is not aimed at monopolizing power.”
He even accepts the reality of Afghanistan being a country of multiple ethnicities. He says, “Since Afghanistan is the joint homeland of all Afghans, so all Afghans have [the] right to perform their responsibility in the field of protection and running of the country. The future transformations and developments would not resemble the developments following the collapse of communism, when every thing of the country was plundered and the State Apparatus damaged entirely. Contrarily, strict measures will be taken to safeguard all national installations, government departments and the advancements that have been occurred [sic] in private sector. Professional cadres and national business men will be further encouraged, without any discrimination, to serve their religion and country.”
But above all that, Omar lays down the law about foreign troop presence in the country on a permanent basis. He says, “First of all, I would like to say that limited withdrawal of the invading forces can in, no way, solve the issue of Afghanistan. The Jihad will continue unabatedly, because superficial measures further complicate the issue of Afghanistan and can produce harmful consequences. The invading forces should seek a lasting and convincing solution to the issue by immediately withdrawing their forces.”
A striking feature of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s May visit to Kabul was the way it was viewed in Islamabad. The country’s newspaper Daily Times noted in an editorial on 16 May, “The timing of Manmohan Singh’s visit to Afghanistan and his address to the Afghan parliament as the first foreign leader to do so not only indicate the rising influence of India in Afghanistan but also the efficacy of soft power in pursuing foreign policy objectives in today’s world.”
Indias quest at that time was to limit Pakistans ability to use Afghanistan for “strategic depth.” Many of the anti-India terrorists were connected with groups having training camps in Afghanistan and were establishing connections with al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
In fact, the editorial signed off saying, “Not only has Pakistan been engulfed in the fire of extremist violence, the Americans are losing patience with Pakistan’s policy of promoting jihadis for use in Afghanistan and are threatening more drone strikes and other unilateral actions. India is succeeding in achieving its objectives in Afghanistan through soft power, which we have failed to do because of our reliance on hard power through proxies. It is time Pakistan revisited its Afghan policy.”
While that was almost embarrassingly laudatory of India’s labour in Afghanistan, it is also an acknowledgment of New Delhi’s parameters for engagement with the war-ravaged country.
India desires that Afghanistan get back control of its own destiny; become secure and stable, without any externally sponsored (read Pakistan) “jihadi” politics; and become a gateway for the country to resource-rich Central Asia. It is also India’s expectation that Afghanistan not be made to choose sides in South Asia, be it Pakistan or India.