In the ‘troika-plus’ format which included Russia-China-US and Pakistan, India was not invited in the beginning.
India’s hosting of Regional Security Dialogue on Afghanistan on November 10, 2021 is a renewed effort to stay relevant in its efforts to be counted amongst the countries that have a stake in Afghanistan’s future, opine experts. In the several ongoing regional dialogue forums on Afghanistan, India was not included as an equal partner. In the ‘troika-plus’ format which included Russia-China-US and Pakistan, India was not invited in the beginning. Similarly, India was not a part of Iran’s initiative of Foreign Ministers’ Meet on Afghanistan. Other meetings organised by Pakistan and China also excluded India. India was sidelined at the behest of Pakistan which considers India a ‘spoiler’ in the peace-process on Afghanistan. New Delhi on the other hand treats Islamabad as an ‘arsonist’ masquerading as a ‘firefighter’.
“India has its back to the high wall and faces a dilemma in its efforts to engage with Afghanistan. Having shut all options by closing all its diplomatic missions and withdrawing its diplomatic from Afghanistan, India is looking for ways to open a meaningful dialogue with the Taliban regime, which in its present form is under tight control of Pakistan,” opines Indian Army veteran Maj Gen NK Bhatia.
According to Prof Rajan Kumar, School of International Studies, JNU “The proposed NSA meet on Afghanistan hosted by New Delhi assumes significance for three reasons. First, New Delhi cannot allow Islamabad to become the sole arbiter in Kabul. Second, economic instability and security dynamics have long term implications for India. And finally, India’s interests converge with Russia and Central Asian states in Afghanistan. The Taliban government has shown no inclination to form an inclusive government by including minority communities such as Tajik, Uzbek and Hazaras.”
Sharing his views with Financial Express Online, Prof Rajan says, “The security situation is also deteriorating with frequent terrorist attacks by ISIS and other splinter groups. By taking an initiative to call the NSA meet, New Delhi reinforces its claim that India has stakes in Afghanistan and cannot be side-lined by other regional players.”
As expected, Pakistan has refused to participate in the proposed meet. “The fact that Russia and other Central Asian states have agreed to participate in the meeting demonstrates the willingness of these states to ignore the concerns of Islamabad and work with a state with which their interests converge. On the issues of terrorism, drug trafficking and refugees, these states share similar concerns,” Prof Rajan opines.
India has been an active player in Afghanistan in the last two decades and the states of Eurasia recognise its contribution. Its connectivity project through Chabahar will also require close regional cooperation.
“From New Delhi’s perspective, this meeting may have two positive outcomes: this will put pressure on the Taliban to form an inclusive government by including Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras, and second, other ongoing dialogue forums will recognise India as a serious player. It might be invited for regional dialogues in future,” the JNU Prof states.
Expert View on Regional Security Dialogue on Afghanistan
Indian Army veteran Maj Gen NK Bhatia, a regional expert says, “As anticipated Pakistan’s NSA declined to attend stating that “A spoiler cannot try to be a peacemaker” clearly showing Pakistan’s contempt of India holding the Security Dialogue on Afghanistan. Pakistan’s iron brother China’s participation in its NSA is also yet to be confirmed.”
According to him, “Regional security of the region, in particular for the countries along Northern borders: Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are a cause for concern. Regional terror groups such as Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) and Jamaat Ansarullah also known as ‘Tajik Taliban’ have used Afghan territory to launch attacks across borders and challenged the authority of secular regimes of CARs.”
Adding, “The emerging threat of Islamic State Khorasan and a tacit understanding between cadres and leadership of IMU with Al Qaeda and Islamic State Khorasan is seen as a threat to their survival.”
“Pakistan also remains vulnerable from Taliban dispensation due to anti Pakistan Pushtun outfits such as Tehrik e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), both that challenge the authority of Pakistan government with similarities based on ethno-religious affiliations with Taliban and where their cadres are mostly based but refuses to publicly acknowledge the same,” he observes.
“Temporarily, it seems to have brought peace with TTP with active support from none other than Afghanistan’s interim internal minister Sirajuddin Haqqani but it is doubtful as to how long the same will stay.
Similarly to the west Iran’s major concern besides the increasing attacks on Shias is the rise of Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) in Afghanistan who due to the sectarian divide remains opposed to the Iranians.”
In his opinion “India’s security concerns are essentially threat to itself from terrorism emanating from Afghan soil through terror groups that have forged alliances with one another under the umbrella of Haqqani network with guidance of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).”
The role of ISI chief Lt Gen Faiz Hameed to firm up a Taliban government and anoint Haqqani group in prominent positions in run up to formation of a new political dispensation along with statement of Pakistan Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa about assisting Taliban to firm up a government showed the tight grip and total control of Pakistan Army has over Taliban.
“It is this tight hold of Pakistan over Taliban that India is looking to loosen to be able to reach the hearts of Afghans. India’s offer of 5000 tonnes of wheat for Afghan was a step in that direction. Winning ‘hearts and minds’ of Afghan’s through food security is a winning strategy, only if Pakistan allows it to be delivered,” Maj Gen Nalin Bhatia concludes.