Mains Paper 2: International Relations
Prelims level: India- Afghanistan relations
Mains level: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
• US Special Envoy for Afghan Reconciliation, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad called for India’s direct engagement with the Taliban — has created polarizing waves in New Delhi.
• The fact that hardly anyone questioned the premise of his proposal shows the new normal in a Trumpian world.
• The proposal is being debated between proponents of Khalilzad’s suggestion and sceptics arguing its pros and cons for India.
Proposals and Sceptics:
• Evident in the justifications offered by the proponents is the fatalism that a takeover by the Taliban is inevitable, and hence, the utility of appeasing the new victor.
• Khalilzad’s proposal has also benefited from an entrenched deference to Western authority/wisdom among a segment of Indian pundits and policy-makers.
• On the other hand, the sceptics draw attention to the complexity and arduous nature of the Afghan conflict.
• They argue the need for Delhi to stand its ground in supporting the post-2001 constitutional order — an order that can accommodate the Taliban as a non-violent political stakeholder.
• The sceptics are not against talking with the Taliban per se, but they see little value in engaging with a group that remains fully under Pakistan’s tutelage.
• In line with Delhi’s stated policy of supporting an Afghan-led process, the sceptics recommend following the Afghan government’s lead in engaging with the Taliban.
• The Doha agreement between the Taliban and the US has effectively changed the status of the post-2001 constitutional order from “at the table” to an “on the table” new reality.
• Former Republican strategist’s description of US behaviour can shed light on US’s capacity to manufacture a new reality to suit its interests: “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.
• And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out.”
• This imperial entitlement is often supported by other elements.
Pakistan, an ally to US:
• If Israel is a key ally of the US, and Iran the chief trouble-maker for Washington in West Asia, Pakistan has been both an Israel and an Iran for the US in South Asia.
• Pakistan has been the centrepiece of the US’s South Asia engagement, despite occasional rhetorical admonition and half-baked sanctions.
• Months before the Soviet intervention in 1979, Washington joined Pakistan in supporting the Mujahideen in toppling the Afghan government through Operation Cyclone.
• In 2004, Pakistan was recognised as “major non-Nato ally” of the US.
• Concurrently, major Afghanistan-related political, security and defence decisions were made to appease Pakistan’s concerns.
o downsizing the Afghan National Security and Defence Forces to a paramilitary force,
o promoting pro-Pakistan officials within the Afghan government and defence/security sectors,
o limiting India’s role to just a large NGO, and;
o projecting the Taliban as an independent nationalistic insurgency.
• Afghanistan will be at peace if and when there are a set of three mutually reinforcing pillars.
o sustainable state to provide decent public goods to its citizens;
o inclusive democratic governance; and;
o a supportive environment to protect Afghanistan’s status as a connector of competing external interests rather than a battlefield for proxies.
• A coherent peace process should be based on the four pillars of development, democracy, defence and diplomacy.
• Inclusivity has to be recognised as a cross-cutting principle, coupled with a primary role for Afghan ownership and ensuing Afghan responsibility.
Way forward for India:
• India should play an active role in articulating and promoting a process that leaves Afghanistan at peace.
• Despite its structural flaws, the post-2001 constitutional order has the capacity and legitimacy to become the basis for an inclusive peace process.
• India must come up with ideas and structures in the fields of development, politics, security and diplomacy.
• India can and should champion an inclusive, multifaceted and Kabul-centric peace process.
• In a COVID-19-afflicted world and with a looming US presidential election, the aforementioned framework would attract the charge of naivety and idealism.
• However, the alternative would result in an Afghanistan in pieces.
• The Afghanistan of 1990s and today’s Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen are vivid examples of myopic and partisan policies.
Q.1) With reference to the UN Public Service Day 2020, consider the following statements:
1. UN Public Service Day 2020 is being observed on June 23 to honour public servants in the COVID-19 pandemic response.
2. The prestigious UN Public Service Awards (UNPSA) are given away on this day by UNDP.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2
Q.1) Highlights the policies taken by India towards Afghanistan so far. Do you think there is a need of change in India’s Afghan policy? Comment.