Revolving Afghanistan !


Pakistan has helped in the dialogue between the Taliban and the US in Abu Dhabi, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said in a tweet on Tuesday. He expressed hope that “this leads to peace and ends almost three decades of suffering of the brave Afghan people”. Khan also assured that “Pakistan will be doing everything within its power to further the peace process”. This is not the first time that Pakistan has enabled a dialogue between Taliban and the US but so far the process has hardly made any conspicuous progress. In fact the dialogue has invariably broken down as the differences between the parties have turned out to be irreconcilable.

Would the situation now be any different? It seems unlikely. For one. Taliban is now in much stronger position than it was earlier. It controls 40 percent of the country, so it would bargain for a lion’s share in the post-settlement power structure of the country. Would the US be inclined to concede this? It is difficult to expect it during the reign of Donald Trump, even though the president seems desperate to leave the war-torn country.

However, the Taliban-US dialogue has dynamics and dimensions that go beyond the two parties: it has linkages with the regional geo-politics. The neighbouring countries have a direct stake in its outcome. So, a grand reconciliation will not only have to satisfy the Taliban and the US but its terms should be mindful of the sensitivities and the interests of the neighbours too. And the two neighbours who would be most sensitive to such terms will be India and Pakistan. Pakistan sees India’s presence in Afghanistan as its encirclement and India, on the other hand,  needs this presence to deny Pakistan its purported strategic depth.

So, the peace in Kabul will be highly unlikely if the two countries work at cross-purposes. India and Pakistan need to cooperate to make the ongoing peace efforts in Afghanistan successful. But it is this part of the Afghan dialogue that Washington has hardly sought to promote.  An India, Pakistan engagement is critical to peace in Afghanistan. But this engagement is unlikely to succeed unless the two counties take concrete steps to resolve the Kashmir issue.

The problem with the regional problems in South Asia is that they can’t be tackled in isolation. The factors underpinning them are both local and regional. So, a solution that focusses exclusively on one of the problems is unlikely to succeed and will come unstuck sooner or later. Afghanistan solution has to be a part of an integrated approach to the region’s festering issues for it to succeed. The US can only be oblivious to this fact to its detriment.

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