A SPOILER CAN’T BE A PEACE BUILDER
Pakistan declined Indian invite to participate in a moot to discuss the future perspective of Afghanistan. Pakistan declined the invite by saying that “a spoiler can’t be a peace builder.” In the aftermath of Taliban’s takeover, it has been proved that India tried its best to derail the peace process by using financial and strategic moves. It was Pakistan who continues to facilitate the process with the coordination of regional allies such as Russia, Iran, China and Turkey. On the other side, Indian government preferred not to talk with the Afghan authorities for any type of consultations, aimed at peaceful settlement of Afghan conflict.
Owing to the Indian negative role in Afghanistan, international/ regional community has acknowledged Pakistan’s assistance. Pakistan has been part of every meeting where Afghanistan’s issue is discussed. From Moscow Format Talks to Istanbul Process Meeting, Pakistan was in the center stage to debate on the topic. Even United States acknowledged Pakistan’s role and its former representative for Afghanistan Zalmy Khalilzad frequently paid visits to Pakistan to meet with civilian and military leadership. Likewise, Indian side abstains from every important discussion on Afghanistan either its United Nations or any other process.
Recently, Indian Government convened a meeting of National Security Advisors of regional states comprising CARs, and Iran. Unexpectedly, Indian NSA Mr. Ajit Doval invited Pakistan and Chinese counterparts to attend the meeting where Afghanistan was the major topic to be discussed. Interestingly, Indian Government not invited Afghan government led by Taliban to participate in the meeting. As Pakistan clearly said that a spoiler cannot be a peace builder, it chooses not to participate the meeting. China also follow the suit, citing scheduling issues. However, both Pakistan and China said that they are committed to prevent humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and will do their best to help starving Afghan people.
As NSAs meeting on Afghanistan held in India, Pakistan hosted senior diplomats from the United States, China and Russia in Islamabad to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. Initiated by Russia, the Troika-plus format certainly has an important role to play in the Afghanistan end-game. The Troika Plus meeting on Afghanistan attended by special representatives from all four countries. Representatives of the four countries also met Afghan Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, who had arrived in Islamabad on first overseas visit. Troika Plus has become an important forum for engagement with Afghan authorities. It expresses support for an inclusive government, discuss ways to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan as well as the protection of human rights, particularly women's rights.
In the meeting, US would probably like to explore how flexibility can be brought on the Taliban's stance on inclusivity, women's rights and governance matters. The US also seems to show some concern towards the humanitarian crisis arising out of restrictions on banks. Likewise, US would also try to assess the position of Russia, China and Pakistan on the current situation in Afghanistan. Russia and China both are playing pivotal role in the peaceful settlement of Afghanistan and to ensure human rights. Both have announced to support Afghan government financially to prevent humanitarian catastrophe. Both countries have also strategic interests in Afghanistan. Their collaboration along with Pakistan is being critically viewed by Biden administrations. India is also feeling uncomfortable with its strategic ally Russia’s support to Pakistan on strategic issues.
As India has been sidelined from key meetings on Afghanistan, this has sparked discussions in New Delhi. Some Indian media outlets believe that the exclusion of India from the extended Troika meeting proves that India's position on the Afghan issue is not completely on par with Russia's. Pakistan is playing leading role in Afghan imbroglio. Russian tilt towards Pakistan has also sensitized India and its negative vibes against Pakistan.
Delhi Declaration matters as it indicates several subtle changes in India’s policy and equation with the country and its neighbourhood. India’s efforts matter as Pakistan hosted a separate meeting on Afghanistan –Troika Plus – on Thursday, with the aim to outsmart India in the meeting.
China, Russia, Pakistan and the US are the four most direct foreign stakeholders in Afghanistan situation. These countries have long been active participants in the Afghan peace talks. They have established a mechanism among themselves - the Troika Plus, a balanced combination of countries with different interests in various directions in the Afghan issue.
However, the expansion of the extended Troika meeting, a long-standing mechanism for resolving the Afghan issue, may require the unanimous consent of its members. In this regard, Moscow has already questioned the role that New Delhi can play in Afghanistan. Russian president's Special Envoy for Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, recently noted that India has no influence with Taliban. According to him, only countries that have an unequivocal influence on both sides in the Afghan issue should participate in the extended Troika talks.
It is difficult for a third party to judge what specific divergences exist between India and Russia in Afghanistan. But there could be a broader context to explain India's absence in this meeting. That is, Moscow is wary of New Delhi's dangerous orientation of getting closer with Washington over the years. As New Delhi becomes more and more willing to be tied to Washington's chariot to serve US interests in the region, Moscow may fear that the former will become the latter's proxy in Kabul. If India wants to exert its influence in Afghanistan or expand its presence there, it needs to maintain its position of strategic autonomy and adopt an independent foreign policy.
In conclusion, at the current stage, India's pro-US diplomacy, its prejudice against the Afghan Taliban, and its competition with Pakistan in the Afghan issue combined restrict the role India can play. It is clear that India lacks rational acknowledgment on the Afghan issue. The country puts too much emphasis on its own interest and neglects Afghanistan's actual demands in the peace process. The purpose of India concerning the Afghan issue should be promoting the peace and stability of Afghanistan. It should not be about complicating the situation by supporting one side while opposing the other or by pursuing its own geopolitical strategic interests. In the Delhi conference, India tried to negatively project Pakistan’s efforts for peace in Afghanistan. However, Indian fallacy was not supported by other participants, which is practical acknowledgment of Pakistan’s role.