US President Donald Trump is determined to follow through on his promise of completely removing the presence of the US Armed Forces from Afghanistan. Trump has not shied away from negotiating with Taliban which continues to be a stakeholder in the Afghan politics as it still completely controls few areas of the country.
Afghanistan represents a complex problem with the Afghan Government controlling 219 districts and 63% population with Taliban controlling 50 districts and 10% of the population making it even tougher for the USA to withdraw without casualties. After several delays, the historic peace deal between the US and the Afghan Taliban in Doha is finally set to take place later this week in Doha. In a significant development, India has been invited to attend the signing which will act as a tight slap on the face of Pakistan.
According to official sources, India’s Ambassador to Qatar will attend the signing of the historic peace deal between the US and Taliban. The deal would allow for the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan. The US has lost over 2,400 soldiers in Afghanistan since late 2001. Economic Times reports that India has been invited by the Qatar government for the ceremony where the deal will be signed and Indian ambassador P Kumaran will attend it.
India has played a key role in helping restore normalcy in the war-ravaged country by taking up various infrastructure projects. India even built Afghanistan’s new Parliament in Kabul, which was inaugurated by PM Modi and with $3 billion in aid since 2001, India remains the largest regional donor to Afghanistan and is determined to continue its aid despite USA’s draw-down from the region. In a significant departure from India’s previous policy of providing only non-lethal military assistance, India has transferred a total of eight Mi-35 helicopters to the Afghan Air Force since 2015. India has earned tremendous goodwill in Afghanistan and helped in building roads, hospitals, schools, providing training, arms and fighter aircraft to the Afghan armed forces, making Indians a legitimate stakeholder in Afghanistan.
Hence it comes as no surprise that India had sent two former diplomats in “non-official” capacity to a conference on Afghan peace process in Moscow in November 2018. The conference organised by Russia was attended by a high-level Taliban delegation, representatives of Afghanistan as well as from several other countries, including the US, Pakistan and China.
India has had apprehensions related to the US leaving Afghanistan, however, Trump has been keen to manage an exit for the US after over 18 years of war in the region. Despite the tough posture on Pakistan by Trump, he was limited in his ability to punish Pakistan as the US required Pakistan’s co-operation to ensure a safe passage for the US Armed forces. Once, USA is out of Pakistan, the latter is of no use to Trump and he may well decide to side with India in taking back PoK as hinted by Subramanian Swamy on Twitter.
I have now a solid hint that if India agrees to to defend Afghanistan against terrorists like Taliban, and thus allow US to withdraw its troops, then US will side with India in taking back PoK
— Subramanian Swamy (@Swamy39) August 31, 2019
It is important to note that the Taliban in the past had urged for peace talks with India. Why would a terrorist organisation like Taliban beg for peace with India? Taliban knows that ever since it was uprooted by the US in Afghanistan, India has gone on to increase it’s foothold in Afghanistan and enjoys tremendous goodwill and soft power in the country. Taliban knows that India has come a long way since the Kandahar high-jacking and the multiple surgical strikes in PoK is a testament to that. The rooting out of terrorists from Kashmir and successfully hunting down of every terrorist involved in carrying out attacks in India has apprised Taliban of India’s strength and the consequences if India puts its boots in Afghanistan. The first batch of Rafale fighter jets is set to be delivered in September, which would undoubtedly be the most advanced jets in the region.
Presently Indians enjoys tremendous goodwill in Afghanistan thanks to its development projects and unflinching support to the Afghan government against the Taliban. India is the only stakeholder in Afghanistan who is truly committed to ensuring peace in Afghanistan.
It’s a huge diplomatic victory for India and one hopes that Afghanistan doesn’t become a safe haven for terrorists yet again.