India has prominent place, but there are hundreds who have stake there, says NATO.
New Delhi: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has denied that India plays a crucial role in the Afghanistan peace and reconciliation process, and instead believes that Pakistan has the “most important role”, along with the US, in establishing truce with the Taliban.
Alejandro Alvargonzález, Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy, NATO, told ThePrint that the peace process is led by the Afghanistan government where the US is “playing a crucial role” along with Pakistan, but India cannot be party to those talks just because Pakistan is a player in it.
“There is an international community that helps the Afghan government to sit with others and the US is the other actor whose role is very important. But let’s not go mentioning every single country that could have a role because you will then have all countries in the world (coming in as stakeholder),” Alvargonzález, who attended the Raisina Dialogue held last week, said.
“Pakistan’s role is of utmost importance in Afghanistan. I think India has a prominent place in Afghanistan now. But there are hundreds there that have a stake there. It is an Afghan-owned process and it should be kept like that,” Alvargonzález said.
No part in talks unless Kabul invites
India is now in a catch-22 situation of sorts with the US accelerating its talks with the Taliban, with Pakistan in tow.
While the US had urged India to take up a more combative role in Afghanistan by sending its security forces there to fight the Taliban, India has maintained that it will not speak to the Taliban directly unless it is formally invited by the Afghan government to do so.
However, New Delhi is concerned that the talks could be being steered by the US for its own benefit, but that Pakistan’s presence could throw up security challenges for it.
“It is clear that the US is negotiating with the Taliban on their own behalf. NATO has no idea what it is talking about or what is going on. I agree that Pakistan plays the most critical role in it but how it discharges its responsibilities, that is something that needs to be seen,” said former high commissioner of India to Pakistan T.C.A. Raghavan.
“Problem is Taliban is ready to talk with everyone but the Afghan government, and India cannot be part of those talks unless the Afghan government invites it to be part of that process. After all, Afghanistan is a sovereign country,” Raghavan, who is now director-general of the Indian Council of World Affairs, added.
Calls for clear policy on Afghanistan
There is now growing clamour that India should come up with a comprehensive Afghanistan policy wherein it will not just focus on its development by granting aid, but also outline whether its security forces should partake in the reconciliation process.
While Army Chief General Bipin Rawat had stressed last week that India should not remain out of the Taliban talks since it has an interest in the war-ravaged country, the Ministry of External Affairs tried to downplay his remarks, saying India supports only those peace talks that is “Afghan-owned” and “Afghan-led”.
These issues were also discussed in the 10 January meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad.
“We are working on a regional grouping on the peace talks where India will be a party,” Khalilzad had told ThePrint.