With the US troop withdrawing from Afghanistan after their two decades of military engagement, the Taliban are making quick gains by spreading their clout northwards. Reports by Taliban authority deem that the group now controls 80% of the Afghan territory. Voices are heard in international media that such intensity of the Taliban’s offensive can being Kabul to its knees in six months.
The resultant spike in violence has brought the fears of an imminent power vacuum and the prospects of intra-Afghan talks have made little headway. Determined diplomacy and collective actions are the need of the hour to ensure lasting peace in the country and the region.
Even though the Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process is what all stakeholders strive for, countries such as China, Russia, Central Asia, Pakistan, and India have their respective stakes in the Afghan peace process. Thus, a legitimate Afghan government which is the essential end-product of the peace talks is a prerequisite for maintaining Afghan sovereignty and national interest.
Indian stakes in Afghanistan
Former US President Donald Trump presented his South Asia policy where he emphasized the need for a continued Indian presence in Afghanistan. Undeniably, the Indian nexus with the Kabul government had been evident in the past to keep Pakistan constantly engaged at the western border.
Abbas Stanikzai, #Taliban Chief Negotiator in a new interview today:
— Hashim Wahdatyar (@HashimWahdatyar) May 16, 2020
Furthermore, India has also spent around $3billion on the Afghanistan reconstruction plan and maintains excessive clout over the spillover of militancy from Afghanistan. The objectives of hybrid warfare by fuelling insurgency in Baluchistan and ensuring a safe haven to the Baloch militants in Afghan soil can only be fulfilled with India’s continued connection with the political elites at Kabul.
Moreover, continued Indian influence is also a political card to monitor Chinese clout and the subsequent Belt and Road initiative. As regional rivals had a military face-off at Ladakh that triggered the age-long border dispute, Indian presence in Afghanistan has its motives for becoming the regional hegemon and fostering the US-Indo strategic alliance vis-à-vis Pakistan-China nexus.
A negotiated settlement remains our priority, says Suhail Shaheen
Suhail Shaheen, the spokesperson for Taliban highlighted that they welcome Pakistan’s support for a negotiated settlement and will not accept any dictation. This settlement was earlier emphasized by Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, General Bajwa that Pakistan is the “facilitator of Afghan peace, not guarantor”.
This statement reiterates the fact that Pakistan has played an integral role in bringing the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table and pitches for lasting peace conducive for Afghanistan, the political settlement should be Afghan-owned and Afghan-led.
Read more: How India lost Afghanistan to Pakistan?
As the Taliban deem that Pakistan “cannot dictate or impose views on us”, they foster the narrative of ensuring fraternal ties with Pakistan with whom they share cultural, religious, and historical links. Additionally, Shaheen iterates that they expect India to remain impartial in this struggle of the people of Afghanistan and urges them to align its support to the people, not to their vested interests.
Also, the spokesperson rejected the notion that the Taliban perceived the use of force as the solution for their rule in Afghanistan. He highlighted that embassies and properties were never their targets of attacks. Their approach was and is always on the defensive as they targeted military forces at Kabul engaged in attacks on them. He explained the Taliban’s stance by shedding light on their meetings and negotiations with the Afghan government and representatives in Doha.
The Blame game still hovers
Nonetheless, the blame game still looms where the Taliban accuse the Kabul government of showing no flexibility in the Doha Peace Deal and intransigence over the exchange of prisoners. Also, Shaheen highlights that security forces in some Afghan provinces are voluntarily joining Taliban ranks as they cease to have confidence in Kabul government. With such impediments to the power-sharing formula, the possibility of intra-Afghan dialogue reaching its desired conclusion will a wild goose chase.