Trigs on Track- Diplomacy Unwound: The Afghan Conundrum

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By Ambassador Anil Trigunayat, Copy Edited By Adam Rizvi, USA, TIO: 9/11 changed the world. It surely changed the US and more so the South Asian neighbourhood as Washington decided to go after the Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. President Bush said ‘We are going smoke them out”. US’s Military intervention and prolonged, somewhat unwelcome, stay in the “Graveyard of Empires” cost the Americans and their allies much more than a trillion-dollar and few thousand lives. It cost the invincibility of the hyperpower. Taliban which fought the West in hybrid warfare for two decades owe its genesis to them. You create a Bhasmasur ( a mythological demon) and be ready to be consigned to flames. It,ipso facto, also applies to those countries who for geopolitical ends support the extremist, terrorist and non-state actors as an instrument of their foreign policy.

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Some would say it is good to know the history but has anyone learnt from history is a big question. If that was so before going to invade Afghanistan, Soviets would have thought twice and two decades later Americans would have been wiser who as such had a bad taste from their Vietnam fiasco. William Dalrymple -a noted historian, in his book “The Return of a King” provides some lessons if there was any inclination to learn from the British defeat in the First Afghan war. All wars are bad but to extricate from a bad war could have even worse outcomes. This time round as US walks out of Afghanistan by 9/11 (2021 ) only consolation it carries that it was able to smoke out Osama Bin Laden- who was being protected by its two-timing consort and partner in crime- the not so mighty state of Pakistan. Islamabad’s biggest guns blaze through the armour of terrorists against India and Afghanistan. But one has to grant its uncanny ability to encash its nuisance value in the context of being an interlocutor with the Taliban. No wonder the Americans, the Russians and the Ironclad “ Khitaisky friend- China’ rush to Islamabad and create trilateral, quadrilaterals and bilateral arrangements to undermine the other superpower, bargaining away their own chips in the process.

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The poor Afghans continue to suffer and are unable to understand rush for the ‘Doha Deal” with Taliban and the hasty exit without a plan of their mighty partners in USA and NATO. Taliban, chameleonic as it is, has launched its power grab being inebriated with false sense of bravado. Early successes in capturing vast swathes of difficult and less populated terrain with the help of their Rawalpindi friends and social media prowess has made them quite heady. Chinese, worried about their BRI/CPEC plans and quest to control the Uyghur Muslim insurgency, are wooing the Taliban leadership naively hoping that a Taliban 2.0 is substantially or even superficially any different than its previous Avatar. But Taliban is also smart as it has invited the Chinese friends to come and invest in their bright future with a vague promise that Afghanistan, if they indeed control the whole of it, will not allow any terrorist activity against any third country. Sounds good but then why would a TTP claim to blow up the Chinese engineers in Af-Pak corridor. Is it that strategically Americans and for that matter even Russians might feel that why not the Chinese also taste the forbidden fruit and fall prey to their ambitions adding another grave of the empire?

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Other powers like India and Iran, who are invested heavily in the war-torn country, are also worried about the accidental fall out of accentuated terrorism on their borders. In India’s case New Delhi has seen it earlier in the 1990s and would hope it not to happen again as it tends to stabilise the state and secure its borders in J&K. Whether India and Taliban are talking is immaterial. Taliban warns India not to support the Afghan government and stay neutral and helplessly watch the unfolding of havoc that plays out in a critical friend – The Afghanistan. India did not distinguish between good Taliban and bad Taliban even though others moved on. It believes that the Taliban are also Afghan but certain redlines must not be crossed for the good of the country and the Afghan people. A new Afghan generation, including ambitious women, exposed to constitutional freedoms ,want peace and progress but is currently under stress due to Talibani onslaught and its likely reimposition of archaic rules and restrictions . Hence an exodus and IDPs have become an unfortunate reality.

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During the last two decades India consistently worked on empowerment and capacity and infrastructure building in Afghanistan with an investment of $3bn and 100s of high impact projects across all 34 regions. It hopes that the progress achieved will not be undone for the sake of the Afghans. Some attacks on India made Salma dam are an ominous indicator even if the Taliban has clearly not endorsed such vandalism. The problem in such an environment is that Pak based terrorist groups in Afghanistan can inflict damage with the connivance of their handlers against Indian landmarks there.  India has always promoted an Afghan-owned, Afghan controlled and Afghan-led dialogue for peace as the only way forward among all Afghans. It is presiding at the UNSC and at the behest of Afghan government will be discussing the deteriorating situation this week as the world watches and warns the Taliban not to forcibly grab power and create a humanitarian crisis yet again through a regressive religiosity and violence.

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International community, either under the aegis of UNSC or SCO etc. , has to rise to the occasion, howsoever hesitant it might be seeing the plight of superpowers. No country or a regime can afford to be a “pariah” or for that matter can remain   immune to the concerted and genuine international pressure and accountability. Unfortunately, geo-politics and geo-economics might just stunt and undermine that effort which could benefit the onslaught of Taliban who at least for now are also talking of a negotiated settlement. But the fact remains, and as was also spelt out by Secretary Blinken, that proud Afghan people must stand up and protect themselves against what they themselves don’t subscribe to. The civil war in Afghanistan will take its toll on all regional countries and may not spare the others. The time to act is now.

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Curated By Humra Kidwai, Compiled By Alizah Rizvi

 

 

 

Anil Trigunayat

Anil Trigunayat is the former Ambassador of India to Jordan. Libya and Malta

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