US needs to discharge moral responsibility in Afghanistan

July 19, 2021 1:11 PM

Jaishankar tacitly blamed Pakistan for blocking connectivity initiatives launched by India. He also took a subtle dig at China for pushing smaller nations in South Asia, South East Asia and Central Asia as well as in other regions into debt-traps with its controversial Belt and Road Initiative.

us army in AfghanistanThe United States may be exiting Afghanistan but it cannot look the other way while the country is fast slipping into a state of anarchy. (Photo source: Reuters)

By Farooq Wani, 

India’s Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar, who was in Uzbekistan’s capital Tashkent last week to attend the International Conference on Regional Connectivity of Central and South Asia, stressed that any form of connectivity efforts made by countries should adhere to international laws, territorial integrity and sovereignty and that such initiatives should not create “debt burdens”.

Jaishankar tacitly blamed Pakistan for blocking connectivity initiatives launched by India. He also took a subtle dig at China for pushing smaller nations in South Asia, South East Asia and Central Asia as well as in other regions into debt-traps with its controversial Belt and Road Initiative.

“Since 2016, India has taken practical steps to operationalise the Chabahar port in Iran. This provides a secure, viable and unhindered access to the sea for Central Asian countries. Its efficacy is now clearly proven… The formation of (the) India-Uzbekistan-Iran-Afghanistan Quadrilateral Working Group on the joint use of Chabahar port is a welcome development,” he said.

Jaishankar also emphasised that the 3Cs-connectivity, commerce and contacts drive economic growth universally and they needed to come together to ensure regional cooperation and prosperity. “The challenge we face is that politics, vested interests and instability can be formidable impediments to its (regional cooperation and prosperity’s) realization,” he further elucidated

On the side-lines of this conference, Jaishankar also met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and assured him of India’s support for peace, stability and development in Afghanistan, which is currently witnessing a rapid deterioration in the security situation due to the Taliban stepping up violence as US troops wind up operations in the country.

Ghani in his speech during the Conference said the Taliban has unleashed a “destructive wave of attacks across the country.” He said the Taliban is resorting to car bombs, planting to landmines, assassination campaigns and targeted killing of women among others.” He also hit out at Pakistan for helping the Taliban in carrying out its offensive.

Meanwhile, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen has said that Taliban sees China as a “friend” of Afghanistan and is hoping to talk to Beijing about investing in reconstruction work “as soon as possible.” He further said that the Taliban now controls 85 per cent of the country and that it would guarantee the safety of Chinese investors and workers if they were to return. “We welcome them. If they have investments of course we ensure their safety. Their safety is very important for us,” he said.

On the other side, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi pitched for restarting intra-Afghan negotiations and emphasised that it was important to prevent all kinds of terrorist forces from gaining ground in the war-torn region. Wang also suggested that the Taliban should make a “clean break” with all terrorist forces and return to the mainstream of Afghan politics. Besides commercial considerations, Beijing is also apprehensive that Afghanistan could become a hub for the Al-Qaida-backed Uyghur Muslim militant group, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which is a separatist outfit waging an insurgency in volatile Xinjiang province.

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen also clarified that “We do not want Afghanistan to be a field of rivalry or rivalries for any countries … When there is an Islamic government in place in Afghanistan, I think we need reconstruction of the country. Therefore, we would like to have cooperation with other countries, which benefit our people but, at the same time, how a new Taliban government would balance its ties between arch-rivals Pakistan and India, both of whom have interests in Afghanistan, we do not want Afghanistan to be a center of rivalries.”

He said no individual or group, including Al-Qaeda and the Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP), would be allowed to use Afghan soil to attack any other country. Al-Qaeda and TTP, however are believed to be responsible for dozens of high-profile attacks in Pakistan and their leaders/foot soldiers are believed to be hiding in Afghanistan. “We had made a commitment that we will not allow anyone to use the soil of Afghanistan against the United States, its allies, and other countries,” Shaheen said, adding that the group has “sent its message” to Al-Qaeda.

The frontier was closed by Pakistan after the Taliban seized the Afghan side in Spin Boldak district. This border crossing provides direct access to Pakistan’s Balochistan province, where the Taliban’s top leadership has been based for decades along with an unknown number of reserve fighters who regularly enter Afghanistan to help bolster their ranks. It is also the latest in a string of border crossings and dry ports seized by the insurgents as they tried to choke off revenues much-needed by Kabul, while also filling their own coffers through narcotics trade.

The Taliban, nevertheless, continues to make sweeping gains to fill the vacuum created by the withdrawal of coalition forces from Afghanistan. Amid the surge in violence and mounting doubts about the future of US-backed peace negotiations, it is evident that the Taliban would wield ultimate authority in the future political set-up in Afghanistan.

The United States needs to reassure Afghan citizens and temper Taliban expectations by making it clear that the revival of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan through violence is unacceptable and the future of Afghanistan would be decided through dialogue and political negotiations. This is a practical proposal that has regional support as is evident from Russia, China and Pakistan agreeing to this position at recent conferences in Moscow and Doha.

The United States may be exiting Afghanistan but it cannot look the other way while the country is fast slipping into a state of anarchy. Washington needs to stand up for the people of Afghanistan by making its support for the post-peace agreement Afghan government contingent upon Taliban’s commitment to abide by international laws and uphold democratic principles including holding elections, ensuring human rights and respecting freedom of expression and association for all its citizens without discrimination.

(The author is Editor Brighter Kashmir, TV Commentator, Political Analyst and Columnist. He can be reached at Email:farooqwani61@yahoo(dot)co (dot)in. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online.)

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