To be or not to be in Afghanistan is not an easy question for India
AThe decades-old conflict in Afghanistan has entered a new phase following the United States’ decision to withdraw all of its troops from the country by 20e anniversary of September 11. This decision forced many actors to reassess their assumptions, priorities and strategies vis-à-vis Afghanistan. The emerging dilemma for New Delhi is the wisdom and the price to pay to preserve its two-decade-old investment in democratic constitutional order in Kabul – join the chorus of those who see the future in the imminent and inevitable victory of the Taliban or say goodbye to his Afghanistan. mission.
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The Doha deal between the United States and the Taliban of February 2020 was essentially a “safe passage” for the United States to leave Afghanistan with dignity. Washington also wanted to use the deal to achieve other benefits, including a meaningful peace process, regional consensus, the establishment of a power-sharing government between the Taliban and the Afghan government, and the securing of its assets. military and strategic in the country. In order to achieve its wishes, Washington resorted to a fierce political and diplomatic campaign to create a “momentum for peace,” which included imposing a harsh demand on the Afghan government to release more than 5,000 Taliban prisoners; actively promote “regime change” within the Afghan political class; coerce other countries, including India, to embrace the Taliban and create a hype about a “reformed Taliban”.
As in other cases such as Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, Washington has proven to be much weaker in fulfilling its wishes and expectations vis-à-vis its new position on the Taliban. Neither the Islamo-fascist ideology of the Taliban nor Pakistan’s geopolitical ambition is ready and able to coexist with an Afghan regime and settlement governed by a plural, progressive and independent constitutional order.
Contrary to NATO’s favorite expression that “there is no military solution”, tragically, for the Taliban and their various enemies in the country, there is only one military solution to the Afghan conflict. . The Taliban are attributing their perceived victory over the US / NATO to their determination and military sacrifices, rather than playing politics in the name of peace and negotiation. For the anti-Taliban coalition, the Statistics justify their preference for a “military solution” to futile “peace spectacles”. In 80 percent of all conflicts involving an insurgency / irregular war from 1815 to date, the government has defeated its irregular enemy (victory measured by the fact that the counterinsurgent government remained in power and was able to overcome the threat for at least a decade).
Examples of government / counterinsurgent victories include Sri Lanka, Chechnya, Syria, Pakistani Taliban, Iraq, Turkey, Kashmir, Tajikistan and Balochistan. Afghanistan has seen both the victory of the government and the triumph of the insurgents. After the Soviets withdrew in 1988, the government led by Dr. Najib survived a three-year assault by the Mujahedin. It collapsed once it lost Soviet support and internal factionalization ensued. Over the past four decades, India’s politics have always been focused on the Afghan state. However, Delhi did not have the political will and / or influence to protect its Afghan allies, the friendly governments of Dr Najib and later Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani. The government led by Ashraf Ghani is the third Afghan dispensation that tests Delhi’s determination and commitment.
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India’s options in Afghanistan
Every course of action (perseverance, moving forward, giving up) has serious implications for India with the associated risks, costs and benefits.
Staying the course of its post-2001 Kabul-centric policy would force Delhi to leave its safe corner which has allowed India to have a comfortable “development partnership” while pretending to be a “strategic partnership” with the country. Afghan state. The end state of Delhi’s perseverance would be an Afghan settlement in which the Taliban became a nonviolent political actor in a democratic constitutional order. The South Asian pillar of such a settlement can best be described by the visionary cadre of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh: “Breakfast in Kabul, lunch in Lahore and dinner in Delhi”. The United Nations must play a leading role, in particular in filling the emerging security vacuum by deploying its peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan. A UN peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan can bring Pakistan and India together to prevent the country from descending into lawlessness and state collapse.
Delhi may also succumb to the early temptation and drag others into treating the Taliban as the ‘government on hold’ – a path that has been chosen by segments of the Iranian, Russian and British governments, alongside the Taliban’s strategic partners, the Pakistan, Qatar and Al-Quaïda. The Taliban have foiled the opportunist actors by their insistence on their definition of war and peace. The prospect of an easy Taliban march towards Kabul and the restoration of their emirate is, however, very low. The Taliban will face a diverse coalition of enemies who would fight them for different reasons.
Even in the unlikely event of a Taliban victory, Kabul would look like Muzaffarabad in Pakistani Kashmir. There would be no zone of reciprocity between the Islamic Taliban Emirate and India. In fact, it would be up to China to enumerate the geopolitical and economic dividends of a restored Taliban Islamic Emirate, by including Afghanistan in its regional flagship, the CPEC. Despite visible differences between the various Islamist political entities in the region, there is hardly any Islamist movement or government that can be considered to be functioning decently and / or peaceful. Therefore, a restored Taliban Islamic emirate would join the long list of violent, failing and authoritarian Islamist movements and governments. As such, Pakistan’s honeymoon would also be very short, if its three decades of investment in the Taliban project were to bear fruit. Afghanistan has shown that monopoly policies are ultimately doomed to failure, at home and abroad.
Leaving Afghanistan is also a political option for New Delhi; similar to the situation in Tibet when in December 1962 India closed its Consulate General in Lhasa, in the aftermath of its war with China. India has already closed its two Afghan consulates in Herat and Jalalabad.
While the Afghan people have borne the brunt of nearly five decades of conflict, there is virtually no other country in the neighborhood and beyond that has escaped unscathed. Investing in an inclusive and sustainable Afghan political settlement would benefit all domestic and external stakeholders. For this enterprise to succeed, it must be based on the pillars of defense, development, diplomacy, democracy and dialogue.
The author is Director of the Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies and a former Senior Policy Advisor at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Opinions are personal.
(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)
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