Q) Critically analyse the prospect of India sharing a negotiating table with Taliban in an ongoing peace process. Doesn't it go against India' "zero tolerance against terrorism" policy? (250 Words)
Source: The Hindu: Editorial Page: Two bad options
GS2: International relations, India and Neighbourhood
Introduction: Recently it was decide that a regional conference under the UN auspices with foreign ministers of US, India, Russia, China, Pakistan and Iran would discuss a “unified approach” on Afghanistan. It is for the first time that India is accepted in Afghan peace process along with neighbours and global powers. One of the main element of the process is reaching a peaceful solution with Taliban.
Importance of these negotiations for India:
1. Protecting Indian investment in Afghanistan: India has invested heavily in major projects like various hydropower projects(Salma Dam), connectivity projects(road from Daleram to Zaranj) etc.
2. Diplomatic Advantage: Afghanistan is a key ally which gives India a strategic advantage over Pakistan.
3. Recognition as a global power: Participation in the peace process is important for the recognition of India's efforts in Afghanistan. It would boost India's position as key democratic development partner in the world.
4. Geo-strategic importance of Afghanistan: Afghanistan lies at the cross-road of civilizations and has long been one of the most important trade routes and strategic military locations in the world. For example China wants control of Afghanistan for its Belt and Road Project. India and Russia are keen on connecting it with North-South Economic corridor. India is also pushing TAPI pipeline.
5. Countering Terrorism in the region: Afghanistan can be used as a fertile ground for the export terrorism into India, thus India is a key stakeholder in the process.
6. Migrant Crisis: As in the past every new instability in Afghanistan breeds a new wave of migrant crisis.
7. Drug peddling: Afghanistan forms a part of Golden crescent and is a source of drugs that infiltrate illegally into India.
Arguments that the Negotiations are not negotiation on terrorism, but negotiation for peace
1. Biden administration is Strict on terror: US-Taliban Agreement of February 2020, which underscores the conditional nature of the US exit as non-negotiable, and moderately ameliorate ties with the Afghan government. The agreement calls for a 90-day reduction in violence and a transitional government formed from both sides.
2. Importance of agreement between regional power: The global and regional powers such as China, Pakistan, Russia and India must all agree on peace in order for peace to be negotiated.
3. Influence of Taliban: Taliban has power in 50 districts of Afghanistan. It has some degree of popular support too. This cannot be ignored.
4. Negotiations are better than never ending war: The geographical and strategic situations of Afghanistan make war a never ending process since last 3 decades.
5. Weak Afghani government: In the last general elections in 2019, only 25% of the population participated, which is lowest ever. There are desertions in the army and the police. And on the other hand Talibani influence is expanding. Thus its better to negotiate.
Challenges in this Approach:
1. Risk of annulation of Democracy: The Taliban can take over the government in Kabul, if US exits prematurely.
2. Implementation of Sharia Law: This can again force Afghanistan into a human rights crisis.
3. Risk of becoming unpopular in Afghanistan: India has a goodwill that even Taliban cannot counter in Afghanistan. But participation in its internal politics can risk our goodwill.
Conclusion: The present peace process undergoing in Afghanistan is a necessary evil in which India have to participate. In the process we are not negotiating on terrorism, and only a mechanism for a sustainable peace would be negotiated. Thus this does not violate India's Policy on Zero Tolerance on terrorism. It is expected that India would always play a constructive role as it has always been by strengthening the democratic establishment in Afghanistan.