Shaping events

An important obstacle in the way of president Hamid Karzai’s reconciliation process has been removed with the UN Security Council passing two resolutions separating Taliban from the al-Qaeda and removing some Taliban leaders from its sanctions list. The resolutions are aimed at encouraging Taliban leaders to break ties with the al-Qaeda and also to join the political mainstream and the dialogue process. The separation of Taliban from al-Qaeda is based on recognition that the two have separate goals; while the al-Qaeda is engaging in a global jihad, the Taliban is focused on Afghanistan. The UN resolutions will provide it with greater flexibility in dealing with Taliban leaders, allowing it to lift the travel ban and asset freeze on more Taliban leaders as and when they enter the mainstream.

 India’s ‘yes’ vote in the UNSC on both resolutions marks an important shift in its position on the Taliban. Hitherto it has been bitterly opposed to any dialogue with the Taliban, arguing that ‘good Taliban’ simply does not exist.  Its anger was understandable; after all the Taliban, thanks to its close ties with the ISI has acted to undermine India’s security and interests. However, in the rapidly changing scenario in Afghanistan resulting from the impending US pullout of troops, an inflexible refusal to engage the Taliban is leaving India out in the cold, cynical and sidelined. Sections in India have equated Delhi’s vote lifting sanctions on select Taliban leaders to ‘supping with the devil’ and as a decision taken under US pressure. But this criticism reveals little understanding of the evolving situation in Afghanistan and the complexity of peace processes.

The Taliban might not be a ‘good group’ but the insurgent group represents a section of the Afghan people for whatever reason. No reconciliation process will be meaningful or peace settlement sustainable if the Taliban is kept out.  The experience in conflict zones across the world shows that a lasting peace is possible only if it is an inclusive process.

This is why Karzai is reaching out to the Taliban and why India must support him in his endeavour. Sitting in the sidelines and carping about the Taliban and worrying about the implications of a US troop pullout is not going to enhance India’s role in the peace process. Becoming a part of the reconciliation process and shaping its evolution and outcome is what India needs to do.

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