Removal of Terrorist Tag ushers in fresh Indo-Afghan negotiations

Within a few hours of the UNSC resolution, Sher Mohammed Abbas Stanezhkai, one of the key members of the ruling Taliban high command in Afghanistan, began formal negotiations with India.

It, thus, finally ends the apprehension that India might have little presence in the war-ravaged country due to her close ties with the erstwhile Kabul government.

Stanezhkai, an alumina of the prestigious Indian Military Academy, Dehradun, mow a prominent Taliban leader, drove to the Indian embassy at Doha on to discuss a wide spectrum of issues related to the revival of the erstwhile ‘warm ties’ with the envoy, Deepak Mittal.

The crucial meeting between the two took place on Monday, August 30 following the removal of the tag of “terrorism” on the Taliban at the UNSC in New York.

Interestingly, it was also the last day of the month-long chairmanship of India of the UNSC, the highest decision-making UN institution.

The high-level India-Afghanistan dialogue has begun amidst the reports of a trust deficit between the Taliban and the Pakistani establishment.

The Taliban may not admit, especially following the arrest of the then Afghan ambassador, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, in 2001, that they have reservations about its negative role in their country.

Ambassador Zaeef was arrested, humiliated and undressed before being handed over to the USA. He was imprisoned for four years at the dreaded American prison in Guantanamo Bay.

On the other hand, India has a positive image of India among Afghans. In this backdrop, the two representatives discussed the immediate as well as long-term issues.

The Indian envoy also felt empowered with the convergence of an all-party approach evolved during the recently held all-party interaction with the Indian foreign office in New Delhi.

He reportedly insisted for ensuring safety of the Indian citizens and the minorities, especially Sikhs, Hindus and Christians; thus re-echoing the sentiments expressed by the law makers.

It is hoped that as soon as normalcy returns to Kabul, the Indian mission would be made functional and the consulates in other major cities.

It may be noted that the Indian diplomatic missions were closed down due to the growing ‘threats’ from the Pakistan supported terrorist groups , especially Laskar-e-Toiba, al-Qaeda and Haqqani network.
Russia and China Abstain

It could not be ascertained the reasons, which might have forced the two permanent UNSC members, Russia and China, to abstain in adopting the resolution. Maybe, they did not want to support the removal of the tag of “terrorism” or the direction to the new Taliban administration that it must ensure that Afghanistan should not be used to threaten or attack or shelter any terrorists.

However, the other three permanent members, France, the UK and the USA and the remaining non-permanent members, including India had voted in favour.

Referring to the Indian stand on the removal of the “terrorist” tag on the Taliban, the government sources have stated that ‘it is the acceptance of the ground reality.’ It is further asserted that “in diplomacy a fortnight i.e the period between August 15 to 30, is a ‘big period’, especially in a fluid political situation.

“ Earlier, briefing of the External Affairs Minister, S Jaishankar, before the floor leaders of political parties of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha was followed up by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) comprising the Prime Minister, Home Minister, the Defence Minister and others.

The briefings from the erstwhile Indian envoy to Kabul, Rudrendra Tandon also enabled the decision makers to keep dialogue with the new rulers.

With the beginning of the official talks between India and the Taliban leadership, the perception that India was being isolated during the Afghan crisis might be finally changed. It will also enable the government to come out from the ‘policy paralysis’ , which had led to the deportation of Rangina Kargar, a veteran Afghan woman member of Parliament.

The government has already expressed its mistake. Stanezhkai, who has been aware of Indian democracy, would not be surprised, about the Indian concerns. He would soon be submitting a detailed list for seeking India’s humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people.

The issue of India’s role in the development of the infrastructure would be taken up only after the formation of the new government in Kabul.

The views expressed by the author are personal

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