India to be part of talks on Afghanistan in Moscow next week; Will face Taliban leaders for the second time

By: |
October 15, 2021 3:28 PM

India has accepted the invitation from Russia to be part of talks on Afghanistan to take place in Moscow on October 20, where Taliban leaders are expected to be present.

modi putinThe summit was postponed last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. (File/PTI)

For the second time after the fall of Afghanistan on August 15, India will be face to face with Taliban 2.0 leaders next week.

India has accepted the invitation from Russia to be part of talks on Afghanistan to take place in Moscow on October 20, where Taliban leaders are expected to be present. A decision has yet to be taken if a Joint Secretary level officer will be present during the talks.

“India has had its back to the wall since 15 August when it pulled out its entire staff from Kabul and shut its embassy thereby cutting off all relations. Russia’s invitation to India to join Afghanistan talks in Moscow on 20 October should be seen as a welcome sign and a good opportunity for India to begin the process of re-engaging with Afghanistan,” opines Indian Army veteran Maj Gen Nalin Bhatia.

During the weekly briefing the official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Arindam Bagchi, confirmed India’s participation. He said that India had received an invitation for the talks related to Afghanistan in Moscow next week.

This will be the first time the Indian side will be sitting at the table and talking about the evolving situation under Taliban 2.0. In August this year after the regime change, the Indian government had sent in several flights to Kabul to evacuate its diplomats, embassy officials and personnel and those Indians who were stuck in that country.

Recently, special representative on Afghanistan of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Zamir Kabulov, said that Taliban has been invited to international talks on Afghanistan next week (October 20, 2021). The talks next week come close on the heels of the G-20 summit on Afghanistan earlier this week (October 12, 2021) where the focus was on helping the country to avert a major crisis following the regime change. The country is in the midst of a humanitarian crisis, as the people face shortage of food, essential items, as well as dismal healthcare.

According to reports, by August end, India’s ambassador to Qatar, Deepak Mittal, had met representatives of the Taliban in Doha.

Know what the talks mean for India

The invitation to India from Russia comes ahead of the annual India-Russia summit later this year. Russia had indicated earlier, soon after the US led forces had left Afghanistan that India could play a very significant role.

Soon after the US exit, Russia, China and Pakistan have been trying to play major roles, even as India is in the process of calibrating its position there.

India has talked about its concerns related to narco trafficking, terrorists using Afghanistan to launch attacks against India. At various foras it has raised questions about the rights of minorities, women and children as well as lack of inclusivity.

Before the US forces had left Afghanistan, in March this year, at the end of an international conference on Afghanistan which had taken place in Moscow, a joint statement was issued by the US, China, Pakistan and Russia urging the then warring sides to reach a peace deal.

The joint statement had cautioned the Taliban not to launch any offensives in spring and summer. However, the moment the US and its allies started pulling out their troops, the Taliban seized power immediately and the country was back to its old days of uncertainty and violence, attacks on the minorities as well as the poor condition of women and children.

Why is Russia concerned?

For Russia, Taliban continues to be a terrorist organization and anything that is happening in Afghanistan will have an immediate impact in the wider region.

Expert View

Sharing his views with Financial Express Online, Maj Gen Nalin Bhatia (retd) says, “The global community, in particular the USA and its allies find themselves at a loss as how to re commence their engagement with Afghanistan given the peculiar state of ideological and governance conflict with Taliban dispensation in Kabul.”

According to the Indian army veteran, “Russia that supported the anointment of Taliban and was happy to see exit of US and its allies out of Afghanistan has also been at a loss to move further on a road map for engaging. The proposal would certainly be a window for finding a way forward.”

“Some backroom discussions with the Taliban in Doha did take place but that did not provide for any positive move to open up with the new regime. Needless to say, India has its own interests in Afghanistan. Besides people to people contacts, Afghanistan’s importance for India is its centrality to access by land routes for trade into Central Asia,” he adds.

India would therefore look to open up and re-initiate attempts to engage with the Taliban at Moscow.

“On the Afghanistan side, the Taliban too would be keen to re-engage with India. So far Taliban have not said anything that should keep India away from talking to it,” Maj Gen Bhatia opines.

However, he cautions, “India should not expect a smooth sailing for its efforts due to Pakistan’s overbearing influence over the Taliban dispensation.”

In conclusion he says, “The meeting in Moscow is certainly an opportunity that India should fully exploit to make headway with Taliban, opposition of Pakistan notwithstanding.”

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