Talking to the Afghan Taliban

Published: June 23, 2013
Email
The writer is a consulting editor with The Statesman and writes widely for several newspapers in India

The writer is a consulting editor with The Statesman and writes widely for several newspapers in India

India is certainly not looking kindly at the ongoing negotiations between the US, Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban that have led the latter to open a political office in Doha, Qatar. India’s minister for external affairs, Salman Khurshid, has made it clear that in New Delhi’s view, “the red lines that were drawn by the world community and certainly by the participants should not be touched, should not be erased and should not be violated”.

Significantly, given the emotional and angry reaction by Afghan President Hamid Karzai to being kept outside the proposed dialogue with the Taliban widely perceived to be brokered by Pakistan, Mr Khurshid’s assertion that “the peace initiative should be Afghanistan-owned and Afghanistan-driven” acquires new meaning. Mr Karzai, objecting to the Taliban suggestion to name the Doha office as the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”, alongside the national flag, has refused to be calmed down by US officials and snapped talks on bilateral security arrangements.

The talks have been on for a while now, with source-based reports in The Express Tribune confirming the role played by Pakistan in bringing the US and the Taliban closer to a peace accord. A worried President Karzai, who has made two visits to India in less than six months, has been clearly seeking New Delhi’s support for his position that the opening of the office and talks with the Taliban and other parties should go through his government and not through Islamabad. President Karzai has been left out of the process, with the US also showing signs of dropping him from the peace process as an “irritant” that has met with a fair degree of success after Islamabad’s decision to use its clout with the Taliban.

Both India and President Karzai have not been happy with the outcome, although the Manmohan Singh government remained silent, at least publicly, on the secret negotiations. Instead of working together, both India and Pakistan have been working against each other in Afghanistan. While there is recognition here in Delhi that the ongoing effort is to avoid a civil war in Pakistan after the US pullout, there is also worry that the “deal” might give the Taliban excessive influence in the new set-up, returning the region to a status quo after years of violence.

Iran, Russia and India are amongst the stakeholders that are opposed to a re-entry of the Taliban in mainstream politics, per se. In recent weeks, the Taliban have been working to dilute the opposition from Iran, with visits by delegations to Tehran, which was virtually unheard of in the past. There is growing recognition that given the mess in Afghanistan, lasting peace cannot return without involving the Taliban. But New Delhi that remains averse to this, can now wag a “we told you so” finger after the recent controversy over the naming of the Taliban office and the tough stance adopted by them in the negotiations with the US and Pakistan.

Interestingly, New Delhi, despite this worry, has been keeping a strange silence on the events. Mr Khurshid’s recent remarks from Baghdad are guarded, with several former diplomats of the view that the UPA government needs to speak out on the issue, otherwise, it will be faced with the fait accompli of a Pakistan-backed Taliban government in Kabul.

The flip-flop policy of the Americans demonstrates how ignorant they are of the region and how totally unaware they are of the complexities and the dynamics that control the countries they have made their battleground. The tragedy of human suffering over the last decade, and more, will be further compounded if the pullout of troops creates an unmanageable crisis, bringing violence instead of peace to the troubled region.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 24th, 2013.

Like Opinion & Editorial on Facebook, follow @ETOpEd on Twitter to receive all updates on all our daily pieces.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (35)

  • Dharamveer Nimiwal
    Jun 23, 2013 - 10:23PM

    This Girl needs to read some good books printed outside Pakistan……

    Recommend

  • Ravi
    Jun 23, 2013 - 10:24PM

    The author and her best by showing pro pakistan tilt.

    Does she ever see anything good in India???

    Recommend

  • Ali Tanoli
    Jun 23, 2013 - 11:04PM

    Iran, India, and Russia are the trouble makers in south asia period.

    Recommend

  • abc
    Jun 23, 2013 - 11:12PM

    US has started looking at Taliban as assets. These assets are likely to be used in middle east conflict whose epicenter is in Syria. Americans are outbidding Pakistan to acquire these assets. Later on these assets might be used even against Pakistan and then Iran and China. New dirty great game is unfolding very fast. Saudi money, American weapons and Taliban type Sunni assets are going to become a very lethal cocktail.

    Recommend

  • Parvez
    Jun 23, 2013 - 11:40PM

    Nice attempt at trying to make sense of a multi dimensional mega mess in the making.

    Recommend

  • G. Din
    Jun 24, 2013 - 12:04AM

    @Ravi:
    “Does she ever see anything good in India???”
    Not, when and where her “philosophical” homeland is concerned.

    Recommend

  • Razi
    Jun 24, 2013 - 2:37AM

    @G Din & Ravi

    Do you guys ever see anything good in Pakistanis or those with Muslim-sounding names? Obviously not, particularly when it involves your homeland.

    Recommend

  • Rahul
    Jun 24, 2013 - 3:03AM

    Author is the leading expert on terrorism, minority rights, hindu-muslim relations and various and sundry failings of India.

    Recommend

  • Russian
    Jun 24, 2013 - 4:09AM

    @Ali Tanoli lol Where is USA? and Iran ? Oh i understand they are shias. Russia doesn’t have any presence in South Asia. Then for you Pakistanis everyone are trouble makers. But the whole world considers you as a migraine. You may be thinking your partner China might be your dear friend. But for outsiders and for political analysts, Pakistan is a stooge which is used like a tissue paper by US and China for their own gains.

    Recommend

  • Rex Minor
    Jun 24, 2013 - 4:53AM

    India is bad guy since its creation, Pakistani leaders always play double games and so do the Karzais , the Talibans are straight and communicate in the language of force but must never be trusted; the Yanks ae happy in any situation as long you give them some sort of leadership, all the protagonsts live up to their reputations. Only ONE of them will be the winner in the games hey play. .

    Rex Minor

    Recommend

  • Sexton Blake
    Jun 24, 2013 - 5:35AM

    Good article by Seema Mustafa. However, like most people on the Sub-Continent she possibly does not understand the arrogant attitude that the Western world has towards them. For example, the West does really know the difference between Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka. When speaking English they all sound the same with an accent that sounds upper class British English, but which is somewhat different. They still have not moved on from the days when the Sub-Continent was merely a colony. Moving on, the Americans are extremely arrogant and, apart from chasing any form of money, legally or not, do not respect anybody. Now, one could argue forever about the Taliban, India, Pakistan, various interest groups in Afghanistan, Syria, Iran and any other country the US/UK/NATO/Israel group do not respect. The bottom line is that the US and its various minions have caused severe problems for the Sub-Continent, which the Sub-Continent will have to eventually solve when the Western idiots have left. Also, I have a bad feeling the US created Taliban issue will not go away for a very long time, and we will all be suffering from payback due to the mischievous and brutal activities of America and their lapdogs.

    Recommend

  • naeem khan Manhattan,Ks
    Jun 24, 2013 - 5:37AM

    @G. Din: When ever a person from India with a Muslim sounding name writes some thing which is hard to swallow for you Brahamans then they are tagged immediately as traitors. Sitting out side Pakistan I do see some very good analysis in her article. Get a life people.

    Recommend

  • someone
    Jun 24, 2013 - 5:41AM

    @Ali Tanoli:
    Yes and Pakistan is the most peace loving country in the entire world.So peace loving that entire Pakistan is oozing out of love and peace and exporting some of this love and peace to other countries too.

    Recommend

  • antony
    Jun 24, 2013 - 6:30AM

    I feel the opinion is coming from a pakistani Indian . IF you feel at heart as a pakistani and living in India and observing afghanistan you might pen down these thoughts exactly as this piece.

    Recommend

  • Rangacharya Kulkarni
    Jun 24, 2013 - 6:35AM

    @G Din & Ravi

    Where did you get an impression from the article that it is not pro-india.Her writing is based on facts and realism. She is right that India has to take a stand on this issue. I belive that article puts India in a very much positive light. You guys, please remove the “coloured “glasses.Excellent Seema, it is a right analysis, Thanks for enlighting us.

    Recommend

  • Genius
    Jun 24, 2013 - 7:18AM

    Anyone and everyone who wants to keep trouble out of their way has only one choice. The choice is to come out to join hands with others to work together to keep out of trouble in obedience to Lord Creator. Every trouble we see people enduring today is of their own making. Even in the past the people brought trouble upon themselves by disobeying the Lord. So it is all up to the people. Do they want to keep trouble out of their way? Do they or do they not? If people want to keep trouble out of their way they have no other choice than to come together to organize themselves to be able to do so.
    Leaving such crucial matters that affect their life and destiny in the hands of others is the biggest disfavour people do to themselves. The consequence is that people suffer at the hands of those on whom they leave those matters to be settled.
    Everyone, everywhere will suffer injustices until they will see the sense in coming together to organize themselves. Organize to be able to resolve those matters themselves in total unison. If people fail to heed the wisdom of organizing themselves, then no one will be able to help them. No one. The Afghans have suffered before, suffering today, will suffer for all times to come until they will see the sense in organizing themselves in obedience to Lord. Organize to bring about a system of the people, by the people, for the people. A system embraced in the past by those who showed unquestionable loyalty to Lord, Lord Creator.

    Recommend

  • F
    Jun 24, 2013 - 7:54AM

    Always USA the villain! USA is ignorant of realities of the region and players like Taliban are all too aware. There is just no comparison between the ignorant and the enlightened.

    Recommend

  • Komal S
    Jun 24, 2013 - 10:14AM

    Ms.Mustafa has just stated the facts. There is no pro-pakistan or anti-india in this article. The observation on USA flip-flop on dealing with Talibans is accurate, also correct in saying that Karzai, India, Iran & Russia does not like Taliban to be a key player post withdrawal, Also she has indirectly alluded to that Pakistanis would like taliban to play a key role post withdrawal. Pretty ordinary article stating the obvious. Not sure why so many Indians are worked up!

    Recommend

  • Ashkenazi
    Jun 24, 2013 - 10:53AM

    Americans are not flip flopping. They are pursuing their agenda in region. However if anyone who points American agenda or tells history is either labelled conspiracy theorist or mad mullah. The severe lack of knowledge about international players give a very myopic view of things.

    Recommend

  • Agnostic
    Jun 24, 2013 - 11:43AM

    So who is a tougher negotiator for the US – Iran or Taliban? This dialogue is going nowhere.
    India and Pakistan have a marginal role in all this. If they have not been able to settle any of their disputes, why would any one expect them to do the opposite in Afghanistan. The Afghans are better at fighting each other than making peace. In case something really happens, please do inform me.

    Recommend

  • AliKuliKhan
    Jun 24, 2013 - 12:04PM

    Its ignorance to believe that USA is not fully aware of the ground realities in Afghanistan. All countries in the game are pragmatic and their approach is based on self interest except Pakistan. Pakistan’s army driven foreign policy with regard to Afghanistan is flawed to say the least. In the end Pakistan will be left to face the music. The only hope for the army to step back and let the civilians formulate the foreign policy and approach to the Afghan quagmire.

    Recommend

  • Proletarian
    Jun 24, 2013 - 2:01PM

    @Genius
    I will bow down to this “Lord Creator” when you can prove to be that he truly exists and isn’t just a figment of your wild imaginations. Until you do prove that lord’s existance I’ll continue to devote my life to building a worldwhere everyone cooperates and where everyone lives a pleasant, comfortable life, as equals, free of want, a world where people needs are satisfied so they dont have to bow and scrape to imaginary lords.

    Recommend

  • Rex Minor
    Jun 24, 2013 - 3:17PM

    @Agnostic:

    good question! Neither Iran nor the Talibans negotiate with USA.

    Rex Minor

    Recommend

  • Jun 24, 2013 - 4:48PM

    In the last paragraph, there is a judgement. Completely unsupported by the preceding lines. Seema Ji, please write another article and objectively tell us, How Americans are ignorant of the situation? And where americans failed in their understanding of teh reguonal situation?

    Recommend

  • G. Din
    Jun 24, 2013 - 5:45PM

    @Rangacharya Kulkarni:
    “You guys, please remove the “coloured “glasses.”
    ” IF you feel at heart as a pakistani and living in India and observing afghanistan you might pen down these thoughts exactly as this piece.” comment by reader “antony” right above your own comment. Appeasement politics is hypocritical trite. Gandhi devoted a lifetime to it. With what results?
    @Razi:
    @G Din & Ravi
    Do you guys ever see anything good in Pakistanis or those with Muslim-sounding names?”

    Does any non-Muslim from anywhere in the world see anything good coming from “Pakistanis or those with Muslim sounding names”? And, don’t they make it amply clear by according abnormally more attention when a Pakistani is trying to go through an immigration counter of any country in the world. Did you see the movie “My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist”. Doesn’t that say it all?
    “Obviously not, particularly when it involves your homeland.”
    How true! How true, indeed!

    Recommend

  • Afghan Maihan
    Jun 24, 2013 - 7:55PM

    A poorly written article that ignores the most important player, which is Afghanistan and its people and the fact that both Pakistan and India are mere spectators in the grand scheme of things and neither can influence or alter the course Afghans have chosen for themselves. Taliban are going to be marginal players with no support base or constituency unless they become a party that learns to participate in democratic politics.

    The author needs to visit Afghanistan and sit down with civil society to gauge the changes that have taken place in the last 11 years and realize that ISPR disseminated narratives are passé no matter if they come from Pakistan or ignorant Muslim Indians.

    Afghans will make peace and reconcile despite the interference of meddlesome neighbors, Afghans will have the last laugh.

    Recommend

  • Raj - USA
    Jun 24, 2013 - 8:54PM

    @Afghan Maihan:
    What you say echos my views, word to word, 100%.

    Recommend

  • why not
    Jun 24, 2013 - 9:23PM

    @Afghan Maihan: She is an Indian Muslim yes. But unlike most Indian Muslims she is one of those few who is more loyal to Pakistan than India. You just have to read her previous OpEds to figure that out.

    @Rahul: I respect you for your secular thoughts expressed with @Rakib in this author’s earlier OpEd.. The question is if there is a person whose heart pines for Pakistan, why should we not support her move to the country she loves and is loyal to?

    Recommend

  • Sexton Blake
    Jun 24, 2013 - 11:38PM

    @Afghan Maihan:
    Dear Afghan Majhan,
    I hope you are right in your assumptions that Afghanistan will work it out? However, a major point to consider is that the current Afghan Government has been set-up by the US. Thus, any future Afghan development will be carried out American style, which is OK if that is what the Afghanistan people want. Unfortunately for the Afghans, you should keep in mind that the Western powers have carried out similar arrangements in Iraq and Libya and they are even worse basket cases than Afghanistan. With this in mind perhaps the Afghanistan future will deteriorate once left to its own devices? What I am really saying is that America is only interested in creating Governments, which will fall in line with its hegomonic principles, and people welfare is of no significance.

    Recommend

  • Arijit Sharma.
    Jun 25, 2013 - 6:35AM

    @Genius: ” … The Afghans have suffered before, suffering today, will suffer for all times to come until they will see the sense in organizing themselves in obedience to Lord. … “

    Gullible is the word that comes to mind.

    Recommend

  • Rex Minor
    Jun 25, 2013 - 4:08PM

    @Proletarian:

    We are all equal but some are born and live as more equals than others! This is the creators law and does not rquire your agreement You are condemned for all times to come! This is what is written in the scriptures and this is your fate.

    Rex Minor

    Recommend

  • Rex Minor
    Jun 25, 2013 - 4:17PM

    @Genius:

    Every one should heed to this call, let us walk together to spread this message throughout the world; it will take us a little over 15 years to cover the distance which is equivalent to the distance from the Earth to the Moon.

    Rex Minor

    Recommend

  • Rex Minor
    Jun 25, 2013 - 4:24PM

    @Ashkenazi:
    But right now they are going in circles, chasing their Intelligence man who has is suspected of having the complete Encyclopedia about the American agenda for this century. The suspicions are that the Russians ave sent him into the space?

    Rex Minor

    Recommend

  • Malik
    Jun 26, 2013 - 9:54AM

    I am ok with Americans being ignorant.

    But it is their naivete that is bothering me.

    Recommend

  • Rahul
    Jun 26, 2013 - 11:47AM

    @why not

    @Rahul: I respect you for your secular thoughts expressed with @Rakib in this author’s earlier OpEd.. The question is if there is a person whose heart pines for Pakistan, why should we not support her move to the country she loves and is loyal to?

    Here is case of mistaken identity. The ‘Rahul’ who wrote @Rakib is me, different from the ‘Rahul’ you responded to on this thread. Thanks for your kind words. It always brings great hope and joy to find another Indian whose heart resonates with a strand of secular thought. If I may be allowed, I would like to answer the question you raised (though not at me) about the author. I am not sure if the author’s heart pines for Pakistan, or not; but if it does, and it does more than it does for India, she may be advised to migrate. But more generally I find such gratuitous advice quite repugnant, when offered to anybody and everybody, who being an Indian Muslim has criticised something about India, or Indians. It’s clearly a case of mind over matter. Merit of a critique should lie in its content and not in the personal identity/ies of the critic. Often a criticism comes out of affection and concern. I have come across hundreds of articles from Indians with a Hindu name, bitterly criticising (at times unfairly too) Indian state, or its people, but never seen any of them being advised to migrate to another country by an Indian who disagrees with the author.

    Recommend

More in Opinion