By Apoorva Mandhani
The second round of international talks on the Afghan peace process concluded on Wednesday in Moscow. The gathering saw the participation of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Russia, China, Iran and India, calling for the further broadening of the inclusion of Central Asian nations in future discussions.
Pakistan’s clever manoeuvring
During the dialogue, while Afghan officials continued to share the United States fed view of the Taliban undermining their efforts, Russia continued to demand stability and cooperation to fight extremist groups. The most striking feature of the peace talks has, however, been the proposal to engage in talks with Taliban, in order to fight the ‘bigger threat’, that is the Islamic State. While Russian initiative is being viewed as an attempt to prevent any instability spilling over into Central Asia, the viability of engaging in talks with Taliban is yet to be assessed.
Wednesday’s meeting was an aftermath of a previous meeting held in December of 2015 with Russia, China and Pakistan in attendance.
The gathering was the result of a clever manoeuvre by Pakistani army generals, to parallel India’s growing role in Afghanistan after the formation of the US-India-Afghanistan trilateral.
The meeting had resultantly perturbed both India and Afghanistan, as it seemed to vindicate the Taliban, under the cover of fighting the bigger threat of the Islamic State. This is despite the United Nation’s claim that Taliban is responsible for five times as many deaths and injuries.
India’s imminent participation
India’s presence at the recent conference, however, was imminent, in view of India’s relations with most of the participants involved. The US has been engaged in a newfound military-strategic partnership with India, while Russia has a long-standing history of loyalties to it. Further, Iran plans to cooperate with India on the North-South Corridor stretching from Saint Petersburg to Mumbai, while Afghanistan envisions a crucial extension of this project. In such a scenario, India could not possibly have been excluded from the proposed framework. The inclusion also alleviates India’s concerns about Russia drawing closer to India’s arch-rival Pakistan and strategic rival China.
An ally in Taliban?
According to Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the discussions were aimed at “including Taliban in a constructive dialogue” to counter the expanding presence of the Islamic State Group in Afghanistan. It has also been argued that engaging the Taliban would only deteriorate the security in Afghanistan, as a majority of the ISIS fighters in Afghanistan used to be Taliban in the past. Hence, there exists a possibility of more Russian-backed Taliban joining the Islamic State later.
[su_pullquote]Washington had earlier relied on Pakistan to extinguish the terrorists on which Rawalpindi depended for maintaining influence in their ‘strategic backyard’.[/su_pullquote]
Further, Moscow has been advised to learn from America’s dismal experience, before taking Pakistan on as an outright ally. Washington had earlier relied on Pakistan to extinguish the terrorists on which Rawalpindi depended for maintaining influence in their ‘strategic backyard’. It has since been blamed for ravaging America’s peace efforts in Afghanistan. Moreover, Russia’s support to Taliban might undermine the Afghan government and NATO efforts to battle the extremists, with the American-backed Kabul Government having recently recognised the need to enter into a dialogue with the extremists in order to end the war.Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov | Photo Courtesy: The United Nations
Hence – for the desired outcome – instead of picking sides already, it would be meaningful for all parties to initially utilise such gatherings to establish whether the Taliban insurgents are being seen as terrorists or stakeholders in national politics.
Featured Image Source: Al Jazeera
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