With a view to setting the ground rules for any engagement, the High Peace Council said that negotiations with the Taliban could only begin after they abjured violence against civilians, cut ties with al-Qaeda, and accepted the Afghan constitution, which guarantees civil rights and liberties, including rights for women. The council also said any peace process with the Taliban would have to have the support of Pakistan since members of the insurgent group were based there. Reuters reported this month that the United States was considering the transfer of an unspecified number of Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay into Afghan government custody as part of accelerating, high-stakes diplomacy.29
“¦for India, the worry is what happens to its policy when the U.S. and NATO troops withdraw from Afghan soil. This is precisely where the recent statement by Dr. Manmohan Singh about supporting the Afghan people even after 2014 comes into play.
Whatever the future governance structure in Afghanistan, it is obvious that factoring the ethnic and tribal system of the country into a working democratic system will be the best bet. Towards this end, does it make sense to talk to the Taliban? Despite Indias recent statements supporting the moves by the Karzai government (read with U.S. backing) about the dialogue with the Taliban, history tells us otherwise. Both the U.S. and India know who created the Taliban and to what purpose.
One U.S. scholar has this to say about Pakistani support for the Taliban. “Although the Taliban has a strong endogenous impetus, according to Taliban commanders the ISI orchestrates, sustains and strongly influences the movement. They say it gives sanctuary to both Taliban and Haqqani groups, and provides huge support in terms of training, funding, munitions and supplies. In their words, this is “˜as clear as the sun in the sky.” If that is not evidence enough of the backing by the ISI, one is not sure what is. For India to have first taken the stand, quite correctly in 2009, that there is no such thing as “moderate” Taliban and now to propose that Afghanistan should be talking to the Taliban appears to be a move to fall in line with U.S. moves.
There are two aspects to the present situation. For the U.S., it has little policy choices in terms of withdrawal from Afghanistan. But at the same time for the U.S. is the Pakistan factor. Therefore, it is trying to find peace in Kabul through Islamabad. Second, for India, the worry is what happens to its policy when the U.S. and NATO troops withdraw from Afghan soil. This is precisely where the recent statement by Dr. Manmohan Singh about supporting the Afghan people even after 2014 comes into play. Careful analysis shows that India is playing it very carefully.
The experience of such incidents suggests however that India will have to be prepared to play a much more proactive role in supporting any government in Kabul, both physically and ensuring the safety and security of its assets.
What India envisages is strengthening of the political democracy in Kabul to the extent that the withdrawal of international troops will not have a destabilising effect. Given the fact that New Delhi is backing Karzai at the moment and hopes to do so beyond 2014 is a sign that sudden changes are foreseen. Islamabad may not exactly think along the same lines! This also means that in the next three years, India will have to invest very heavily in Kabul so that institutions and structures are strong enough to withstand the postwithdrawal scenario in 2014.