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Amid Fast-Changing Ground-Reality!

India has opened its doors to secret talks with the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan. Although top diplomats are of the opinion that the decision is undoubtedly a bold one, they also believe that it is a risky diplomatic move, as well! It may be noted that India has always prepared its Afghan Policy, keeping Pakistan in mind. The Indian Foreign Policy-makers want to strengthen the Nationalist Part of the war-ravaged South Asian country, who would never tolerate Pakistan’s interference. That’s why India has always backed the Afghan-led peace process. Now, the question arises here: How logical is it to negotiate directly with the Taliban in such a situation?

According to sources close to the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, a large part of the Taliban recognises and supports India’s presence and participation in development works in Afghanistan. Initially, they would not want the withdrawal of Indian workers from the country. At the same time, the Islamist movement and military organisation might not snap ties with anti-India militants. However, direct talks with the Taliban may at least refrain the outfit from aiding those militants.

Afghan Foreign Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar (L) with Indian Minister of External Affairs Dr S Jaishankar

The Indian diplomats are well aware of the fact that there are a lot of risk factors involved in this move. The Taliban leaders can stop holding talks with India at any moment in order to maintain cordial ties with Pakistan. They might also target India’s interests. Those, who are negotiating on behalf of the Taliban, may be replaced by members of the extremist Haqqani network backed by Islamabad. It is also being noted that most of the Taliban leaders’ families live in Pakistan. It has always helped Islamabad negotiate with the Taliban. Furthermore, the Taliban still maintains close ties with Lashkar-e-Toiba, a Pakistan-based terrorist outfit, and al-Qaeda. According to the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, whether New Delhi holds talks with the Taliban or not, Pakistan-backed militant outfits still have links with them. If India completely disassociates itself from the Taliban-axis, New Delhi’s worries would only increase, in case Taliban comes to power in Kabul later.

The Indian Strategic Experts are of the opinion that the 1999 Kandahar incident had caused a great embarrassment for New Delhi. It may be noted that the Taliban had hijacked Indian Airlines’ Flight 814, commonly known as IC 814, which was en route from Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu to Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi on December 24, 1999. The aircraft was flown to several locations before landing in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar. However, India’s Afghan Policy or Taliban Policy should not be influenced by that decades-old event. The External Affairs Ministry also believes that the Taliban’s dependency on India would increase for administrative purposes, if they come to power. They know that over-reliance on a country, like Pakistan, would not get Afghanistan anywhere, both administratively and financially.

South Asia

Meanwhile, Indian Minister of External Affairs Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar has started expressing the thoughts and concerns of the Narendra Modi Government in New Delhi for small and medium farmers in the international arena. The Indian farmers have been staging protests against three newly enacted Agricultural Laws in New Delhi for more than seven months. In such a situation, Dr Jaishankar was seen raising the issue of farmers at the G-20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in the Italian city of Matera on June 28-29, 2021. Political experts have opined that PM Modi made an attempt to send a message of sympathy to the farmers by using the Global Stage. However, according to the experts, the PM is still not ready to address the issues raised by the farmers.

Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Luigi Di Maio (R) with his Indian counterpart Dr S Jaishankar

After attending the G-20 Meeting, Dr Jaishankar appreciated Italy’s role in highlighting food security, saying in a tweet: “The Matera Declaration reflects the Indian concern for the welfare of small & medium farmers, promoting local food cultures and recognising agri-diversity.” “COVID-19 has impacted the fight against poverty, hunger and disease across the world. It has pushed back the global development agenda, increasing vulnerability in many societies. India is today at the forefront of the response, giving food support to 800 million citizens,” tweeted the Indian minister.

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