Rajiv Sazena

Recently, the Russian organised Troika grouping was in the news. The Troika mechanism was established by Russia including China and the US to discuss the Afghanistan issue. The mechanism was established to deal with the instability in Afghanistan. Initially, Pakistan, Iran and India were nominated to be included in the Troika plus Grouping but the US was not comfortable including Iran in the summit whereas China wasn’t willing to make India part of it.

Convened by Russia, the Troika meeting held in Qatar was attended by Pakistan, China, and the United States. Earlier, the Troika meetings were held in Moscow on March 18 and in Doha on April 30.

The US reasoned that Iran will be a bad addition to the group because they harbour Anti-Afghan elements, people who want to destabilise Afghanistan due to large scale killing of Hazara Shias in Afghanistan and growing tensions due to nuclear issue with US.

China reasoned that India doesn’t hold normal ties with all the stakeholders (i.e. Taliban as well as Afghan government) in Afghanistan. The relation between the Afghan Taliban and India have largely remained underdeveloped, since engagement was low. This would act as a liability to the future dealings of the grouping. This is not the first time Troika will be meeting. There have been multiple meets in the past. All the three-member countries talk about peace and stability but none of their policies has been properly implemented. The member countries themselves have divergent views about the resolution of the Afghan conundrum therefore India’s participation or non-participation would not make much of a difference. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, while speaking in Tashkent last month, said that Moscow will continue to work with India and other countries which can influence the situation in Afghanistan. This triggered speculation that India may be included in the upcoming ‘extended Troika’ meeting. However, that didn’t happen. Troika plus meeting in Moscow on the Afghanistan situation has been concluded. According to a Russian foreign ministry statement, Russia, China and Pakistan have agreed to provide humanitarian aid and economic support to Afghanistan.

Besides, a statement by Zamir Kabulov, Russia’s special presidential envoy for Afghanistan, has irked New Delhi. Kabulov, who also oversees relations with India, said, Russia only sees a role for India in “Afghanistan’s post-conflict development” as the country has no influence with the Taliban. He added, “Only countries that have an unequivocal influence on both sides (of the conflict in Afghanistan) participate.”

Feeling isolated on Afghanistan, India wants to host a conclave at New Delhi and the meeting will be held at the level of the National Security Advisers of the participating countries. India’s NSA Ajit Doval will chair the dialogue for 3 to 4 days.

Days after Pakistan’s NSA declared he would not be attending the conference on Afghanistan in India, New Delhi said Friday that Russia, Iran and Central Asian countries have confirmed their participation. A response from China is still awaited. My assertion is China may send its nomination, else they will be labelled as problem creators and not problem solvers. Chinese can talk to India on sensitive Galwan issue and therefore there may not be any hesitation on Chinese part to discuss Afghanistan. None of the nations, especially Muslim nations, who opposed the CAA implementation in India – Turkey, Pakistan, and Bangladesh are willing to accept any Afghanistan refugees in their own nation. They may not recognise the present government in Afghanistan ruled by Taliban easily.

India is hosting the ‘Delhi Regional Security Dialogue on Afghanistan’ on November 10. The meeting will be at the level of the NSAs and will be chaired by NSA Ajit Doval. Two earlier meetings under this format, sources said, have been held in Iran in September 2018 and December 2019. The third meeting in India could not be held earlier due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

A source said there has been an “overwhelming response to India’s invitation”. Nations are perturbed that if humanitarian support is not given, Taliban will start exporting terror and refugees will start flowing for safer zones.

“Central Asian countries as well as Russia and Iran have confirmed participation,” the source said, adding that this would be the first time that all five Central Asian countries, not just Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours, would be participating in this format.

“The enthusiastic response is a manifestation of the importance attached to India’s role in regional efforts to promote peace and security in Afghanistan,’ the source said.

Invitations have been extended to China and Pakistan too, and “formal responses are awaited”.

But Pakistan, the source said, has indicated through the media that it will not attend. This is a wrong signal to the stability and security of the region. If the NSA of Pakistan attends other bilateral issues like flight route to UAE from J & K, wheat transportation via Atari border to Afghanistan and other thorny issues could have been discussed and by not accepting the invite, Pakistan is losing a god send opportunity. Pakistan will be inundated with refugees. China is getting worried about the radicalisation of its Muslims in the Xinjian region.

“Pakistan’s decision is unfortunate, but not surprising. It reflects its mindset of viewing Afghanistan as its protectorate. Pakistan has not attended the previous meetings of this format. Its media comments against India are an unsuccessful attempt to deflect attention from its pernicious role in Afghanistan,’ the source said.

The high-level participation at the meeting being hosted by India, the source said, “reflects the widespread and growing concern of regional countries about the situation in Afghanistan and their desire to consult and coordinate with each other”. “India has an important role to play in this process,’ the source said.

On Tuesday, Pakistan NSA Moeed Yusuf said he would not be attending a meeting on Afghanistan being hosted by India. Speaking at a press conference in Islamabad, Yusuf said: “I will not go, a spoiler can’t be a peacemaker.’ He was responding to a question on whether Pakistan would be attending the meeting.

For Delhi, the meeting next week is important since the government has made it clear that it has red lines on the new Taliban dispensation in Afghanistan — that it should not allow safe havens for terror on its soil, the administration should be inclusive, and the rights of minorities, women and children must be protected.

So far, the signs from the Taliban have not been encouraging. This has been the assessment shared by New Delhi with interlocutors ever since the Taliban formed its cabinet. May be once Afghanistan gets the 50,000 tons of wheat being gifted by India, the viewpoint of Taliban may get changed!

Whatever may be outcome of this summit, recognition of the Taliban ruled Afghanistan is still a far cry.

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