The challenge facing various sections of the international community is how to counter terrorism and make the world free from militancy. Or, that’s the stated challenge. Conventional methods have not yielded any results or results that can be replicated and scaled across the world.
At such a juncture, the need is often to think out of the box, to go beyond the conventional methods. Old methodologies can be tweaked or amended, after all.
The dialogue with ‘reasonable’ elements within militant groups must be seen in this context. It’s a departure from the past and it may look offensive on the face of it. But it can provide an opportunity to move towards some dialogue and isolate ‘more radical’ elements within the terrorist groups.
In this context, one need to see India’s participation, though ‘non-official’, in a meeting attended by the Taliban in Moscow. The Indian representatives were instructed not to express their opinion in the meeting. Their job was only to listen. TCA Raghavan, former Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan and Amar Sinha, former Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan were sent by think tanks affiliated to Ministry of External Affairs.
The Moscow format meeting was held on November 9.
The peace in Afghanistan is a major challenge and keeping this in mind, Russia brought regional powers to come together and discuss ways to find peace in the war-torn Afghanistan. The Taliban had sent five members from their ‘political office’ in Qatar.
The Afghanistan government did not send their representatives, instead, sent members of High Peace Council (HPC). USA’s Moscow-based diplomat attended the dialogue.
India’s consistent policy on Afghanistan is the process should be Afghan-led and Afghanistan-owned.
The Congress criticised the decision of sending two ‘non officials’ for the meeting saying it’s reversal of India’s stated policy of not engaging with the Taliban or any other militant organisations. Congress spokesperson Manish Tewary said, ”Sitting at the same table with Taliban, notwithstanding the chicanery of saying India was represented at a non-official level, has only served to legitimise Taliban”. The MEA’s stand is there was no talk with the Taliban, two ‘non officials’ only participated in a meeting on Afghanistan hosted by Russia.
India’s position, so far, is there is nothing like ‘good Taliban’ and ‘bad Taliban’. Taliban is bad. Hence, there cannot be a dialogue with them. The growing influence of Islamic State (IS) in the province of Nangarhar is also a matter of concern. There are contradictions between the two militant groups.
Also, the ground reality is, all leading international players - Washington, Beijing, and Moscow - are talking to Taliban. Kabul is also keen to have a formal dialogue with them. In such a scenario, India should also keep a channel of communication open with the Taliban.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani recently said that it was ‘not a question of if, but when’ an agreement would be reached with the Taliban.
US envoy to the Afghanistan spoke about the possibility of a breakthrough before the presidential election in April 2019.
The Taliban have raised four conditions for the peace talks during the Moscow meeting. The conditions were: withdrawal of sanctions, release of all detained Taliban cadres, formal opening of an office in Afghanistan and stopping of what it described as ‘poisonous propaganda’ against the Taliban. Nobody can assure Taliban on behalf of the Afghanistan.
At various levels, efforts are on to bring Taliban on negotiating table. All these efforts are to create favourable conditions for the launch of talks between Afghan government and Taliban.
Bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table and creating a favourable atmosphere for the dialogue is necessary for the peace in Afghanistan. At the same time, peace in Afghanistan cannot be achieved unless the Pakistan helps the process. India can and should play an important role in the Afghan peace process.