New Afghanistan Peace Process and the Indo-Pak Stalemate

New Afghanistan Peace Process and the Indo-Pak Stalemate
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By Dr. Ishfaq Jamal

Afghanistan is a country which has seen fewer years of peace and prosperity and more of war over the decades. Post the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States’ homeland; the country has been and is witnessing unending bloodshed. A war between heavily equipped and well trained US led NATO forces and local Taliban militants has been going on. Post 9/11, it appeared that the US would annihilate the Talban regime in no time and a US backed democratic government and would ably take care of Afghanistan. But, what actually followed was that the US got trapped in an unending war in which it has to bear the burden of 30 trillion USD on its economy, deaths of thousands of US soldiers and a non dignified exit from war which is harming the image of the country. It appears that two decades of war couldn’t end the stalemate and now USA is compelled to search peaceful ways for ending this protracted conflict.
The irony is that almost thirty years ago, Russia left Afghanistan defeated and humiliated and now it is taking a lead for creating a peaceful environment in the country, as a peaceful neighbourhood is in the interests of Russia. Earlier this month, Moscow hosted talks, in which five members of Taliban’s Qatar office and representatives from eleven countries including regional giants China, Pakistan and Iran participated. The talks were held in a conducive environment and a positive message for further deliberations was given. Talks are always positive and conducive; war isn’t.
War devastates, conflict destroys, but talks offer portents for peaceful and prosperous times. Back in 2016 Russia had initiated meetings among neighbours of Afghanistan as an initiative for ending the Afghanistan stalemate, known as the “Moscow process” including China, Pakistan, Iran and other neighboring countries of Afghanistan participated. Earlier this year, a six member Taliban delegation met a US envoy in Qatar for talks. There was ceasefire in the holy month of Ramzan from both sides and again a ceasefire was announced by Kabul on Eidulazha. All these steps indicate a leap forward towards the long needed peace process in Afghanistan.
Back home, however, the other important yet more dangerous conflict between two nuclear powers, India and Pakistan presents a bleaker picture. India attended the Moscow talks on a non official level giving a hint that it had no problems in sharing the table with Taliban which India once considered as a dreaded enemy. India-Pakistan talks have become a butt of jokes considering the uncertainty that always looms over these. They have always suffered derailment owing to many factors. Be it the domestic political environment, pressure from fringe groups, elections in the offing and so on, the first victim is always the peace process. Both the countries lack a Modus Vivendi when it comes to tackling tough situations in Indo-Pak relations. A lack of clear cut policy on Kashmir and talks with Pakistan is what hampers the peace process between India and Pakistan.
After the announcement of ceasefire by the Ashraf Ghani led government on Eid ul Azha there was sudden spike in attacks by Taliban. As back channel talks continue between Taliban and US, certain elements in Taliban have intensified the attacks. Many believe that those Taliban groups who are aghast to talks want to derail the talks by spiking the violence and several analysts are of the view that Taliban wants to present itself as a strong party to talk with on talks table. Thus, they have spiked the attacks. Yet, these attacks have not derailed the talks and all the factions are showing flexibility and not putting complex preconditions for these. India considers Kashmir as its inseparable part and Pakistan calls Kashmir its jugular vein. How strange then that both sides have kept the fire pot in Kashmir. Conflict generates more conflict. It is then time to take a cue from the putative Afghan peace process and do something bold and beautiful vis a vis Kashmir.

The author can be reached at: drishfaqjamal@gmail.com