No air support or boots on ground! India participates in Afghan peace talks in Doha

In his meeting with Mr Al Qahtani, external affairs minister Dr S Jaishankar had expressed concerns at the situation in Afghanistan as well as the situation in the region because of the continued violence there.

Mr Al Qahtani, external affairs minister Dr S Jaishankar, Afghan peace talks in Doha , situaion in afghanistan, talaiban 2.0
In his meeting with Mr Al Qahtani, external affairs minister Dr S Jaishankar had expressed concerns at the situation in Afghanistan

Amidst the growing violence in Afghanistan as the Taliban continues to make gains, India is participating in a meeting in Qatar today (August 12, 2021). The invitation to join the talks was extended by Qatar’s special envoy for counter-terrorism and conflict resolution Mutlaq bin Majed Al-Qahtani, who was in New Delhi last week.

In his meeting with Mr Al Qahtani, external affairs minister Dr S Jaishankar had expressed concerns at the situation in Afghanistan as well as the situation in the region because of the continued violence there.

What is on the agenda of talks today?

The focus is expected to be on stalled talks to be revived. This is most critical as the Taliban continues with its attacks which have caused nine provincial capitals falling in five days. So far Taluqan, Pul-e-Khumri, Sheberghan, Sari Pul, Aybak, Kunduz, Farah, Zaranj and Faizabad have fallen to the Taliban.

By the end of August the US led troops will be exiting Afghanistan. In today’s meeting, besides India and other key countries, Indonesia and Turkey which is likely to take over the security of Bagram airbase, too are expected to be part of the talks today.

Beginning of this there have been a series of meetings taking place in Doha, Qatar. On Tuesday, according to reports , there was a meeting of representatives of the UK, China, European Union (UN), the UN, the US, Uzbekistan and Pakistan. They all met to assess the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and to make efforts to revive the stalled Afghan peace talks.

On Wednesday “extended troika’’ were called by Russia to meet in Doha. This was attended by the US special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, who was joined by his counterparts from Pakistan, China and Russia.

India’s stand

It has been playing an active role in supporting the reconciliation process. A process that’s Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled. India has always maintained that it backs a negotiated settlement which is for the people of Afghanistan and ensures the rights of the various ethnic groups, children and women.

As has been reported earlier, Indian nationals have been urged to leave Afghanistan before the flights in and out are stopped. There are around 1500 Indian nationals in Afghanistan working on various projects. The diplomats have been evacuated from the consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif.

Situation so far

On Wednesday (August 11, 2021), one of the four attack helicopters which India had supplied to Afghanistan in 2019 was seized by Taliban soon after they took over the airport in Kunduz, which is bordering with Tajikistan and is the northern provincial capital of the country. The Taliban has in its possession now a Mi-24V attack helicopter with a serial number 123.

The four helicopters were a replacement of the previous attack helicopters which were gifted in 2015. These helicopters are under a deal between Afghanistan and Belarus and are financed by India.

The aircrew of these helicopters was trained by India, however these cannot be flown by untrained men, therefore can be of no use to the Taliban forces. Also, there are no wings nor have the engines been overhauled.

India to put boots on the ground and fighters in the air?

No. “The simple answer is no. India has no plans to send its troops or provide air support to the forces in Afghanistan,” a senior military official told Financial Express Online on condition of anonymity.

Why? If India gets involved at military level in the current situation in Afghanistan it will get caught in the crosshairs of jihadist outfits. These outfits will then have the raison d’ etre to carry the battle to India.

Regarding the reports on Afghanistan seeking ` robust air support’ from India, sources said that such a step “will put India in a situation where it cannot be of much help as its own resources are limited and it will get dragged in violent situation.”

India has maintained its position of not putting boots on the ground in Afghanistan since 2017 when the US had called for Indian participation to help in strengthening the situation in that country. Earlier this year the same was reiterated by the Indian Army Chief General MM Naravane earlier this year

As has been reported by Financial Express Online earlier, India has been making an effort to talk to all the stakeholders in the peace talks and is keeping a watch on the situation in that country.

No military platforms from India

There is no plan to sell any new defence equipment to Afghanistan. However India is looking at extending technical help to the Afghan forces for maintaining the equipment they already have.

What has India given in the past?

Four Mi-24V attack helicopters have been gifted by India to the Afghan Air Force. Also, three Cheetah light utility helicopters and other military equipment.

India’s role in a war torn country

India has played a major role in providing assistance in maintaining and constructing dam, parliament building, roads etc. This has helped in the stability and good governance there. So far India has already invested almost USD 3 billion in the reconstruction of the war torn country and has been involved in reconstruction of several projects.

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First published on: 12-08-2021 at 16:08 IST