US-Taliban peace deal: Countdown begins as India, 30 other countries invited to witness landmark signing

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New Delhi | Published: February 28, 2020 2:52 PM

US-Taliban deal, peace talks: It will be signed in Doha on Saturday, in the presence of representatives for around 30 countries including India.

us taliban deal, us taliban peace talks, us taliban talks, us taliban peace talks india, us taliban deal india, us taliban news, us taliban negotiations, us taliban relationsNATO member countries, as well as members of the Gulf Corporation Council (GCC), are amongst the 30 invited countries to witness the agreement signing event. (Representative image by Reuters)

Besides India, thirty other countries have been sent invites for witnessing the signing of the landmark peace deal between the US and the Afghan Taliban in Doha, Qatar on Saturday.

NATO member countries, as well as members of the Gulf Corporation Council (GCC), are amongst the 30 invited countries to witness the agreement signing event. “Once the deal is officially signed it will be fulfilling President Donald Trump’s 2016 election promise of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan” said sources. It is estimated that over the last 19 years, the US has lost more than 2,400 soldiers in Afghanistan.

From India, ambassador P Kumaran will attend the ceremony on Saturday. Though India has been a major stakeholder in the neighbouring country, in its peace and the reconciliation process, this will be the first time that it will be officially present in an event where the Taliban is going to be present.

However, as has been reported earlier, in 2018, India had sent two former diplomats in “non-official” capacity to participate in a conference related to Afghanistan peace process in Moscow. Countries including the US, Russia, Iran have been making efforts to push for a peace accord.

US-Taliban peace talks: India’s position

New Delhi has been pushing for a peace and reconciliation process which is Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan controlled.

And has been ensuring that terrorists and their proxies do not re-locate in any “ungoverned spaces”.

US-Taliban Agreement

It will be signed by the US special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban representatives. This agreement is expected to lead to a permanent cease-fire.

It will be signed in Doha on Saturday, in the presence of representatives for around 30 countries including India.

In a statement, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said, “The deal envisions guarantees from the Taliban that Afghanistan will not be used to attack the US or its allies.”

Once the agreement is inked then Intra-Afghan negotiations will start and this will be one of the major step towards delivering a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire in the neighbouring country and will also pave the way for future political road map.

What do experts say?

Experts remained divided over India’s approach while sharing their views with Financial Express Online.

Prof Rajesh Rajagopalan, School of International Studies, JNU states, “India’s willingness to attend the signing of the peace deal between the US and the Taliban in Doha is an implicit recognition that India’s policy on Afghanistan has failed. This should not come as a surprise. India was willing to invest cash and diplomacy on the problem but for preventing the Taliban from coming to power, this was way insufficient. If India was really serious about it, it should have been willing to take risks and adopt harder options. It required a willingness to potentially take some losses–which is what is meant by risk-acceptance. But Indian politicians and bureaucrats are extremely risk-averse. And the wages of such risk-averseness is that you only get to go to the signing of peace deals, not on their making.”

Prof Rajan Kumar, School of International Studies, JNU, says, “This is a prudent move from India’s side. For a long time, India treated the Taliban as a terrorist organization and refused to distinguish them between good and bad categories as done by the US. With the imminent withdrawal of US forces, however, the politics of Afghanistan is likely to turn in favour of the Taliban. Under such circumstances, India doesn’t have much choice if it wants to remain an important player in the region. China and Russia are also engaging with Taliban. The visit of India’s envoy to peace talks should be seen in this light.”

According to Anil Trigunayat, former ambassador to Jordan, Libya & Malta, “It is absolutely pertinent and befitting that India has been invited to the signing ceremony of US-Taliban peace deal. The situation in Afghanistan was discussed with the US President Donald Trump by PM Modi when the US greatly appreciated India’s crucial assistance reconstruction and capacity building of Afghanistan. Developments in Afghanistan directly impact India. Hopefully, the peace deal would lead to meaningful Intra-Afghan dialogue eventually culminating in a peaceful democratic transition. India is a historic and strategic neighbour will continue to support in their development according to the wishes of people of Afghanistan.”

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