India needs to initiate backchannel talks with Taliban, feel experts | India News – Times of India

BENGALURU: With the Taliban taking over Afghanistan, India needs to initiate backchannel talks with it since the militant group has articulated an appreciation of Indian development projects in the country, and maybe a section within it could be open to work with New Delhi, feel experts.
The experts examined the ramifications of the hasty US-troop withdrawal and strategic vacuum that would push Afghanistan 20 years back during a webinar on “contemporary dimensions of the regional security landscape in Afghanistan”.
Former Ambassador to Jordan and Libya, Anil Trigunayat, who is now a distinguished fellow at Vivekananda International Foundation, New Delhi, said sudden US troop withdrawal has created a political and security void in Afghanistan, which is attracting several external players including China, Russia and Iran, apart from an already embedded Pakistan. “India will have to adopt a calibrated approach, interact with the regional countries, especially through Russia, Qatar and Iran; also initiate backchannel talks with the Taliban since it articulates an appreciation of Indian development projects,” he said.
Trigunayat added it is also opportune that India is the Chair of United Nations Security Council this month, which may provide New Delhi with an initial advantage to aid the Afghan people.
But Dr Meena Singh Roy, a West Asia scholar who had visited Afghanistan in 2017, told TOI that, options for India are shrinking.
Labelling the advance of the Taliban as a “strategic surprise, which the international community failed to predict”, Dr Roy said the major concern was if India can trust the Taliban. “Maybe one section within the Taliban could be open to work with New Delhi. One thing is clear that Pakistan will interfere to take advantage of the situation and use a section of Taliban against India. How far Pakistan may succeed is yet to be seen. But for now, India’s priorities are to get Indians and its friends stuck in Afghanistan back by adopting smart diplomacy with its old contacts and Taliban leadership,” she said.
On August 18, India evacuated all its embassy personnel, including the Ambassador from Kabul and the Ministry of External Affairs created a 24×7 special Afghanistan cell in New Delhi to assist the evacuation of Afghans from the war-torn country.
Divya Malhotra, Assistant Director of School of Strategic Studies, Rashtriya Raksha University (RRU), feels the instability and violence in Afghanistan are highly likely to spill over to the neighbourhood despite the Taliban’s assurances of peace.
“If history is any guide, what happens in Afghanistan doesn’t stay in Afghanistan. India must be prepared to deal with a threat from the Taliban-Pakistan nexus,” says Malhotra who visited Kabul in 2017.
During the webinar, an India-based Afghan scholar urged the international community, especially Afghanistan’s allies, to take cognizance of the situation and step up their support. “The fall of the Afghan government was inevitable post US withdrawal and lives of all those who supported democracy and rights of women/children are in danger now.”
“Today the US is comfortable with the Taliban control of Afghanistan and Washington will continue to negotiate with them as long as its interests are served,” added another Afghan researcher, requesting anonymity.
Professor Bidanda Chengappa, Secretary, Institute for Contemporary Studies, Bangalore, agrees with the Afghan researchers, saying this political and social crisis demands urgent action by the international community.
“The images of the Afghanistan crisis are reminiscent of the Partition in the subcontinent in 1947-48; the context is different, but one may draw a parallel between the uncertainty, fear and struggle for survival of the refugees on either side of the Indo-Pak divide. This political and social crisis demands urgent action by the international community, through the United Nations (UN). Today the silence of the UN at such a crucial juncture amounts to the failure of the collective security mechanism of the international system,” Professor Bidanda Chengappa, Secretary, Institute for Contemporary Studies, Bangalore, told TOI.
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) met in New York on August 16 to discuss the Afghanistan issue. It was chaired by TS Tirumurti, India’s permanent representative to the UN.
Meanwhile, the fall of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) has also shocked the world. Colonel Deepak Joshi (Retd), Director of School of Strategic Studies at RRU, stated that the failure of the ANSF raises serious questions about the quality of training given to them by the US/NATO allies. “It shows that even the most modern equipment and best training fail in face of low morale and motivation. Taking advantage of this, Taliban managed to negotiate with local political groups and military commanders to dominate the new political reality in Afghanistan.”

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