Daily Current Affairs – 1st February, 2016Devendra Vishwakarma
Negotiating with the Taliban
The recently concluded Doha Dialogue on ‘Peace and Security in Afghanistan’ presents a number of opportunities for the international community, as well as India, in dealing with the resurgent Taliban phenomenon.
Why in news?
- The official Quadrilateral Coordination Group on Afghan Peace and Reconciliation, with participation from the governments of Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, and the U.S., has become a non-starter due to the non-participation of the Taliban in the talks.
- However recently the second round of the unofficial Doha Dialogue was organised by the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs with support from the state of Qatar and the important to be noted is, it was attended by key leaders from the Taliban’s Qatar office, the only one of its kind, set up by the dominant Taliban faction of Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour.
Why the Doha process is significant at this point?
- The Taliban leadership’s preference, as articulated in Doha, for a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan over continued bloodshed.
- The Taliban’s willingness to negotiate a power-sharing agreement with the Afghan government
- For the first time since the Taliban’s fall in 2001, they have started clarifying the contours of their vision for Afghanistan, though through a Track II process.
Why engage with the Taliban?
But why should we make peace with a violent outfit holding highly objectionable religious and political views? Shouldn’t our efforts be aimed at ensuring that the Taliban are defeated, both militarily and ideologically?
- The most important reason for engaging with the Taliban is that not doing so is indeed a worse option, and could prove to be suicidal for Afghanistan and its people.
- With no less than 60,000 heavily armed men in their ranks, the Taliban are reportedly in control of around 30 per cent of the country’s districts, with their reach and control steadily on the rise.
- There is a lot of concern today about the impending spring offensive by the Taliban and what it would do to the Afghans.
- Widespread electoral fraud during the 2014 presidential election in Afghanistan, and US involvement in making an agreement between the two contenders on the electoral outcome, has dented the legitimacy of the Afghan government.
- With decreasing American military support, very little political legitimacy, and sheer lack of military strength to run its writ over the country, the Afghan administration will find itself in more trouble in the years ahead.
- The Taliban leadership repeatedly hinted at possible power-sharing arrangements with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani during the Doha deliberations.
- Given its many weaknesses, Kabul would do well by engaging the Taliban in a dialogue process.
Potential roadblocks ahead:
Taliban seem to be unwilling on a number of fundamental issues that could come up as serious difficulties on the negotiating table.
- The most important issue is that the Taliban, who refer to themselves as the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”, continue to be unwilling to submit themselves to the Afghan Constitution and accept the term “Islamic Republic of Afghanistan” written in its preamble.
- Intent on creating an “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”, they propose to establish a state based on the Sharia law.
- They are non-committal on the question of democracy, partly due to their interpretation of Islam, and partly due to their fear whether the Afghan people would accept them if they fought an open and transparent election without the might of the gun.
India and Taliban:
India has had a frosty relationship with the Taliban due to a number of reasons like
- The deep links between the Taliban and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence and the latter’s use of Afghan territory to train terrorists to fight in Kashmir.
- The extremely objectionable policies followed by the Taliban regime until its fall in 2001.
- The highly unhelpful behaviour of the Taliban during the IC-814 hijack in 1999.
- India’s Afghan policy, ever since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, has been impressive and imaginative.
- However, it does fall short in meeting the country’s future objectives in Afghanistan in the context of the emerging political realities there.
- India should therefore make use of the reconciliation process in Afghanistan to subtly engage all stakeholders there.
- The Doha process and the message from the Taliban leadership based in the Qatari capital should be taken seriously by India.