New Delhi: External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar Monday said the signing of the peace deal between the US and the Taliban does not come as a “surprise” to India and that it was like seeing the movie Pakeezah after more than a decade’s wait.
“What we saw at Doha was not a surprise. Everybody knew something like this was happening. It’s been talked about for so long. It was almost like finally seeing Pakeezah after seeing 17 trailers on the movie,” Jaishankar said at the inaugural session of CPR Dialogues.
The Kamal Amrohi film took 16 years to make, finally releasing in 1972.
The US began negotiations with the Taliban in late 2018 in efforts to end the conflict that began with the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York. The ‘Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan’ was signed last Saturday.
Jaishankar said the deal is at present about drawing down US presence in the war-torn country and providing support to Kabul. Americans make up about 13,000 of the almost 23,000 foreign troops currently in Afghanistan.
“How that plays out, obviously, time will tell,” Jaishankar said at the session ‘At The Threshold of a New Decade’, and added that in the years since the war began 18 years ago, Afghanistan has undergone rapid change.
“This is not the Afghanistan of 2000 or 2001. Many things have happened since then. To the US and to the West, our message has been that achievements of last 18 years are secured and protected and they are not jeopardised. We’ve to wait and see how this plays out,” he said.
The real challenge
With the signing of the deal, the foreign minister said the real negotiation begins now in the form of an intra-Afghan dialogue. The reality will emerge in terms of who will be the real powers and what will be their demands, Jaishankar said.
“Does Taliban join the democratic setup or does a democratic set-up adjust to Taliban? Those are issues for which there are no clear answers. But we do know that there is going to be this intra-Afghan dialogue… there is lot of interest in various countries, from neighbours of Afghanistan, and those who have interest there also play some role. Again, who plays what role will take a little time to work out… we will have to see,” he said.
Jaishankar also addressed the issue of the coronavirus outbreak, calling it a “growing concern” that India is responding to as fast as it can.
“If you step back, there are two big lessons from the coronavirus — it demonstrates the extent of globalistaion … Second, which we will discover with the passage of time, will be how central China has become to the global economy,” he said.
In the coming weeks and months, there could be “significant consequences” of the spread of the virus around the world, he added.
‘Weaker multilateralism replaced by plurilaterals’
Talking of the world order changing and re-balancing, Jaishankar said now is the era of plurilaterals replacing an increasingly weakening “multilateralism”.
“As players behave more nationally and agendas become more complex, plurilaterals have emerged as the mechanism to fill the gap left by weaker multilateralism and eroding alliance cultures. Convergence emerges as an adequacy standard for nations to work together,” he said, even as he highlighted that India should emerge as an industry leader in this through the RIC (Russia-India-China), SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation), Quad (Quadrilateral) and/or JAI (Japan-USA-India).
Highlighting the role of debates in a globalised world, Jaishankar said such “polarised debates” are making “the landscape become more difficult”, and “the very articulation of interests have come under challenge”.
“Competition is not just amongst states, but often within them, reflecting the tension between the older order and the emerging one. When ideologies, identities and history mix with business, politics and strategy, it can create a very potent cocktail. But the need of the hour remains more sober conversations,” he said.
This comes at a time when India is witnessing unprecedented debates on the way in which the Narendra Modi government has undertaken certain policy reforms, be it with the scrapping of Article 370 in Jammu & Kashmir or the amended Citizenship Act.
ThePrint is a digital partner of the CPR Dialogues.
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