India Must Back Ashraf Ghani Government In Afghanistan
Colonel Awadhesh Kumar, Special Forces
The Taliban and various opposition parties in Afghanistan and their presidential contenders for the forthcoming elections have called for an interim government as they do not want the present Ashraf Ghani government to continue.
In their haste to pull out, after first intervening for no sound reasons, leading to more chaos than what was prevailing for last few decades, the USA now wants to concede such demands of even the terrorists outfits like the Talibans. This will be playing straight into the hands of Pakistan, which India cannot permit.
Therefore India has already conveyed its concerns to the US that in its haste to move out troops from Kabul, Washington should not help in the creation of an interim government. Such a move will not only destabilize Afghanistan, it will give an unhindered access to Pakistan and its ISI to help Taliban insurgents into capturing power once again.
During his visit to India next week, US envoy for Afghan peace talks Zalmay Khalilzad may beg New Delhi not to oppose the formation of an interim government in Kabul. Khalizad only wants to expedite a settlement with the Taliban for withdrawal of American troops and thereby oust Ashraf Ghani led Government. This will not be in the interest of India and therefore must be prevented at all cost. Otherwise India may have to pay a very heavy price later.
Khalilzad, is to visit India from 6-7 May, to brief the External Affairs Ministry about the current state of negotiations with the Taliban and the way USA wants the situation to evolve in Kabul, where presidential elections have been postponed till September.
To get out quickly, it seems US is falling in a trap and may not refrain from pushing the creation of an interim government in Kabul, as being demanded by Pakistan and the Taliban. Khalilzad, it seems is under pressure to conclude the talks before US presidential elections kick in.
The term of the present Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was till 22 May. However, last month Afghanistan’s Supreme Court ordered an extension of his term due to issues related to electoral reforms and a deteriorating security environment.
Meanwhile, the US and Taliban resumed a fresh round of peace talks on 1 May in Doha. The talks were almost on the verge of collapsing last month when Taliban refused to come to the negotiating table that included representatives of the Afghan government.
Now this is a matter which has to be decided by the duly constituted Afghan authorities only. Therefore the best authority to decide extension to present Government vis- a – vis formation of an interim Government is the Supreme Court of Afghanistan and no one else. Any other deal must be opposed by India.
Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale had clearly conveyed this to Khalilzad when they last met in Washington in March. Gokhale had told the US that when Trump downsizes his troops, a sound political structure should be in place at that time.
India has vehemently objected to the fact that the Afghan government has been deliberately kept out of the Taliban peace talks since the beginning by parties with vested interests. New Delhi should be worried that with Islamabad playing a role as a facilitator in the talks, the security situation in the region may deteriorate further and this may be detrimental to Indian security scenario too.
Last year, India had sent two of its former diplomats, Amar Sinha and T.C.A. Raghavan, as non-official representatives for the Moscow talks in which Taliban were involved,to understand how the talks are progressing. The settlement accord that the US is seeking with the Taliban focusses mainly on four issues — troops draw-down, end of terrorist activities, political settlement and a lasting ceasefire.
India needs to assert itself to ensure protection of our National Interests.