Ajai Shukla: How long can India ignore the Taliban?

Discussion in 'Foreign Relations' started by ejazr, Jun 15, 2011.

  1. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    Ajai Shukla: How long can India ignore the Taliban?
    Dialogue with the Taliban is being seriously pursued and it is captivating everyone who matters

    After a decade of deft manoeuvring in Afghanistan with its successful aid policy, New Delhi has taken its eye off the ball. While Washington tries hard to nudge Mullah Omar into sharing power in Afghanistan – a political watershed in a decade-long war – our mandarins have chosen to pooh-pooh the process. Taking cover behind the Mullah Akhtar Mansour fiasco – when a “senior Taliban leader” was flown by the Royal Air Force from Pakistan to Kabul last November for peace talks, but turned out to be a money-seeking impostor – Indian officials dismiss any thought of opening their own track to the Taliban with the toss-off: “Who knows who we would end up talking to?”

    But, as I discovered during a recent visit to Kabul, the dialogue with the Taliban is being seriously pursued and it is captivating everyone who matters: the insurgents, the Afghan polity and government, the Americans, the United Nations and practically every Afghan who has time left over from scrabbling together a livelihood.

    Lutfullah Mashal from the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s key intelligence agency, told me that American negotiators have met Mullah Omar’s representatives, including Syed Taib Agha, a Taliban ambassador-at-large. Besides Agha, the dialogue has also featured Qudratullah Jamal, formerly Mullah Omar’s minister for information and culture. Admittedly, Mullah Omar himself has remained invisible, but that is not necessarily suspicious; negotiating is something that Omar disdains. As Mashal says, “Nobody has seen Mullah Omar, nobody has talked to him, but his trusted people are talking.”

    This dialogue, however, has created discord between Mullah Omar’s Quetta Shoora and Pakistan. Taliban sources lament that Pakistani pressure is forcing Omar to engage with the Americans. Without that, he would be little disposed to talk, being increasingly confident of outlasting the coalition forces in Afghanistan. Given the Quetta Shoora’s single-point agenda of forcing foreign forces out of Afghanistan, negotiating with the Americans is a humiliating climb-down. But Islamabad, with its feet held to the fire by Washington, has bluntly told Omar that dialogue is essential, if only to stave off US pressure. But this is a serious loss of face for the Taliban and confuses its rank and file.

    Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban’s representative to Pakistan until Islamabad handed him over to Washington for an extended stay in Guantanamo Bay, is among those who best understand the Taliban’s complex relationship with Pakistan. Zaeef points to the growing contradiction between the Taliban’s uncompromising rejection of foreign occupation on the one hand; and on the other, Islamabad’s weak-kneed acceptance of American drone attacks and Special Forces operations on its territory. Pakistan has also arrested, and handed over to America, dozens of senior Taliban leaders over the last decade. A proud Pashtun like Omar resents being coerced into dialogue by what he considers a duplicitous and craven government.

    Says another Talib: “We are angrier today at Pakistan than America. Pakistan is playing a double game, telling the Muslims that we are looking after your interests … but actually they are working for America. Thousands of Taliban are in jails in Pakistan even today.”

    AfPak watchers know that Taliban-Pakistan relations were hardly smooth when Omar called the shots in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. Now, however, uneasy coexistence is giving way to deep bitterness within the Taliban.

    This widening fault line provides South Block an opportunity to transform its traditional power calculus in the AfPak region, which unquestioningly lumps Mullah Omar and the Quetta Shoora with the ISI-military combine. There seems little recognition of Mullah Omar’s impending collision with Islamabad; nor that “the Taliban” that the ISI mobilises against Indians in Afghanistan belong to the Haqqani network, which Pakistan maintains far more lovingly than the Quetta Shoora. Divide and rule is standard ISI practice; during the anti-Soviet jihad, it had presided over seven Afghan mujahideen factions, playing one against the other. Today, the ISI effectively maintains two Afghan Taliban by keeping the Haqqani network functionally and financially autonomous from the Quetta Shoora. But, despite the fear that the Haqqani network generates with its suicide strikes and Al Qaeda linkages, Mullah Omar remains the spiritual and symbolic leader of the Taliban, the Amir-ul-Momineen (Commander of the Faithful). With his uncomplicated agenda (freeing Afghanistan of foreigners); his straightforward methods (gun-toting insurgency rather than suicide bombings); and his growing disenchantment with Pakistan, he represents a real opportunity for an Indian overture.

    But ideology invariably trumps realism within the Indian establishment; anyone who deals with the ISI is surely the enemy! Abdul Hakim Mujahid, a former senior Talib official, now deputy head of the High Peace Council, provides the obvious context. “The Taliban are in the battlefield against the world’s greatest power, which heads of a coalition of 48 countries. They will take the support of anyone who could support them … Pakistan; the Indian government; or the Iranian or Chinese government. This is the nature of the battlefield.”

    New Delhi’s dialogue with Mullah Omar will not be easy. Omar knows that India supported the hated Afghan communists; then the Soviet Union invaders; then the mujahideen factions that battled the Taliban; and then the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. Furthermore, the fissures between Pakistan and the Taliban may not turn out wide enough to exploit. But as South Block prepares for a post-2014 AfPak, it would be a strategic blunder to not even have tried to open communications with a major player in the Great Game.
     
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  3. thakur_ritesh

    thakur_ritesh Administrator Administrator

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    Americans have been in touch with the quetta shoora (QS) for a long time and this is the precise reason why they have now backed down on demanding the head of mulla mohammed omar and the much publicized list of 5 terrorists that the americans gave to the Pakistanis isn’t about 5 but 4 people.

    That said don’t at all be surprised if there comes a time when the americans open negotiations with the older haqqani, if once his son, who currently commands the ops in a’stan, is eliminated or possibly even otherwise, his head has also been spared and the deal brokers here are the pakistanis, its something that’s bound to happen because americans weigh their interests far greater than a war being won or not, where they are bound to have an honourable exit and their long term interests include a permanent base in a’stan so that they can use the place to influence things happening in a’stan, CAR and iran, have a share in pipelines going past a’stan, a significant stake in the mining activity, etc.

    If the americans can negotiate with these groups, who have faced the brunt of violence erupting from these groups, then there is absolutely no reason why india should not be doing it either. Yes, haqqani network could be a taboo but certainly not the QS.

    Have people ever wondered why just the haqqani network attacks Indians stationed in a’stan and not the talibs associated with the QS, infact with whom, the indian contractors executing projects in a’stan, have cut deals and they quite literally act as guarantors of no acts of violence against them, otherwise these people executing projects and projects themselves would have been easy pickings. Further of interest are reports emerging from time to time along side former Taliban commanders and active Taliban carders consistently maintaining that they need to unshackle from the grip of the pa/isi and for this they need the support of the outside world and it is under this context they maintain india is not their enemy.

    Having faced with the duplicity of the pa who one day pit one fighting force in a’stan against the other, to the extent they even worked with the NA alliance against the very QS that they today hold hostage to further their interest, where for ransom they have from time to time handed over the talibs to the US, a practice that goes on even today, the QS very well understands the motivation behind the violence being promoted in Kashmir which for QS is no more than another money minting tactic of the pa/isi and something which has nothing to do with jehad as promoted otherwise.

    Of interest to note would be the recent statement of PM to afghans in their parl, where he said, india supports all measures being taken by the Karzai government in trying to bring peace in a’stan and a prominent measure has been, negotiate with the QS, and it seems india now doesn’t openly oppose those negotiations, and it would not be too far fetched to think that Indians could well be using the good offices of the prez to start a dialog with the QS at some point if they have not already.

    It is of prudent interest to india that we stick our necks out, and talk with the QS, and just as mr. Ajai Shukla put it, “it would be a strategic blunder to not even have tried to open communications with a major player in the Great Game”, and you bet it would be!
     
  4. neo29

    neo29 Senior Member Senior Member

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    India needs to be worried about Taliban for only one reason, to keep its interests in Afghanistan safe. Otherwise India does not need to worry about Taliban. If Taliban needs to come to Indian borders then they need control over Pakistan and especially Afghanistan.
     
  5. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    Here is a talk that Ajai Shukla gave in October on India talking to the Taliban. The salient point being that Taliban really consists of the Quetta Shura led by Mulla Omar that is anti-Pakistan and Haqqani network which pays lip service to Mulla Omar but is controlled by the ISI.

    He also talks about how India should not fall for the propaganda that Pakistan spreading that only they can bring Taliban to the negotiating table and should be willing to open a separate channel of negotiation with the Taliban. There is a lot of goodwill for India in Afghanistan and if India signals its willingness to negotiate with the Taliban, we can unbalance Pakistan and undercut a fundamental lever that it is holding on to.

    Is it time for India to Talk to the Taliban
     
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  6. thakur_ritesh

    thakur_ritesh Administrator Administrator

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    A fine take by the colonel.

    To all the indian naysayers on having any sort of dialogue with the Taliban, this is a must watch. Go through this vid, new ideas and thoughts will take shape, the necessity of dialogue will be understood.

    He is deliberating on this issue after a 5 day tour to Afghanistan, after having spoken to a lot of key ex-talibans. He has been regularly visiting Afghanistan since ’08, as he puts it.

    Why mullah baradar was arrested, an absolutely contrast take to what the west has fed, this for me is the biggest revelation of this discussion.

    Ejazr, thanks a lot for sharing this vid, I am all the more convinced that if we are not talking to Taliban at some level, it’s a blunder being committed. Cooperating is one thing, which I am reasonably sure we are, but not talking to them is a huge mistake.
     
  7. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    we are not ignoring the Taliban,we are improving our relations with Northern Alliance.
     

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