What is the American proposal?
- Involving other Stakeholders: US has proposed an UN-led conference of representatives of Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, India and the U.S. “to discuss a unified approach to support peace in Afghanistan”.
- Written Proposal to enhance Trust: US will share written proposals with the Afghan leadership and the Taliban to accelerate talks.
- Comprehensive Ceasefire and Inclusive government: US has urged both sides to reach a consensus on Afghanistan’s future constitutional and governing arrangements; find a road map to a new “inclusive government”; and agree on the terms of a “permanent and comprehensive ceasefire”.
- Negotiations in third country: US has also proposed a senior level meeting of the Afghan government and the Taliban in Turkey to discuss power sharing, reduction of violence and other specific goals.
Why a new Afghan peace plan was much needed?
- The Taliban had warned that if the US does not abide by the Doha agreement deadline (May 1, 2021), the Taliban will step up fighting.
- On the other hand, the Afghan Army lacks the capacity to control the Taliban without US support.
- Further, the Taliban and the Afghan government started peace talks in Doha last year, but no solution has reached.
- Hence, a new plan was desired to break the deadlock and prevent the complete takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban.
Why the U.S. is making this peace push?
- Review of Strategy: The Biden administration is currently reviewing its Afghan strategy. While the review is not completed, there is a consensus within the administration that “accelerating the peace process” is the best way to advance the shared interests of the U.S. and the Afghan government.
- Doha Agreement (US Withdrawal plan): According to the agreement the U.S. signed with the Taliban in February 2020, American troops – currently some 2,500 troops are in Afghanistan – are set to leave the country by May 1. The Taliban have warned that if the U.S. troops are not out by the deadline, they will step up fighting.
- Slow pace of peace talks: The Taliban and the Afghan government started peace talks in Doha in September 2020 but reached no breakthrough. The Biden administration is concerned about the slow pace of the talks.
- Restraining Taliban and Regional Stability: The U.S. assessment is that if American troops are pulled out of Afghanistan, the Taliban would make quick gains and the security situation will worsen. It hopes that the best way to prevent a complete Taliban takeover is a regional peace process and an interim unity government. The Taliban are yet to respond to America’s proposal.
What is the Afghan government’s stand?
- Critical of US’s direct talks with Taliban: The Ghani administration has consistently been critical of the U.S.’s direct outreach to the Taliban. The Trump administration held direct talks with the Taliban, excluding the government. Later, US put pressure on Kabul to release Taliban prisoners as part of Doha agreement.
- Against making concession to Taliban: Even when the Doha talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government were underway, Mr.Ghani made it clear that he, as elected President, is the only legitimate representative of the Afghan people and he resisted making concessions to the Taliban.
- Democratic Process and Internal Interference: President Ghani reiterated his opposition to any transfer of power except through elections. Afghanistan Vice President Amrullah Saleh, a hardline critic of the Taliban, said the U.S. “can make a decision on their troops, not on the people of Afghanistan”.
What is India’s stake in Afghan peace?
- Security: A stable Afghanistan is crucial for regional and domestic security and stability for India.
- Connectivity: The most important role of Afghanistan is always considered as India’s gateway to Central Asia. It implies continental outreach.
- For instance, Connectivity with Afghanistan and Central Asia is the primary reason for India’s engagement with Iran to develop Chabahar port.
- Strengthening regional foothold with the diversification of engagements: Increasing strategic engagements with Afghanistan is beneficial for India in widening the engagement with other countries in the region.
- For example, India’s relations with Iran at present are dominated by oil. By engaging with Afghan and Iran India can diversify its trade interests.
- Energy ambitions: Peaceful Afghan is essential to address the energy needs of India. This is evident by Afghanistan’s essential position in the TAPI (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India) pipeline.
- Trade: Afghanistan can help India export its products to Europe and help in gaining foreign exchange. The railway line from Chabahar to Zahedan in Afghanistan envisages connecting New Delhi with Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia and Europe.
Challenges associated to Peace deal
- The Afghan government as well as Taliban are unwilling for any power sharing.
- Taliban is even not willing to give up its sanctuaries in Pakistan. Nor will it accept any dilution of the strict Islamic system that it wants to enforce.
- Also, the Taliban is fragmented or divided internally. It is composed of various regional and tribal groups acting semi-autonomously.
- Therefore, some of them may continue to engage in violence impacting the peace process and dialogue.
What can be the suggestive measure?
- While the Afghan government’s opposition to sharing power with the Taliban is well known, it is not clear whether Mr.Ghani could continue to resist American pressure, especially if the U.S. brings regional powers, including India, on board.
- If the US decides to stick to the Taliban deal and withdraw troops by May, Mr.Ghani would be in a tougher spot. He doesn’t have any good options. If he rejects the American offer, the war will continue forever.
- The Taliban have already taken over much of the country’s hinterlands and are breathing down the neck of its cities.
- If Afghanistan President Ghani accepts the proposal, he will have to share power with the Taliban and discuss amendments to the Constitution and the future governance framework.
- India must step up to assist materially to those who want to defend the Afghan republic. This will mark the arrival of India as the superpower and as an arbiter in settling international disputes.
The objective of the Afghan peace process should be to bring about a just and durable peace through political negotiations. The world leaders must cooperate to ensure an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled peace process. Because that only will bring lasting peace in the region and strengthen regional security.