May 5, 2016
Reuters“Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz levers remained unpulled last month as the Taliban kicked off the annual spring offensive with an attack in Kabul that killed 37 people.” Residents near the site of attack.
New Delhi should deepen its ties with the government led by Ashraf Ghani as he looks to distance himself from Pakistan. But with the Taliban resurgence, India must hedge all bets
Last week, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s 18-month engagement with Pakistan collapsed under the stress of Pakistani recalcitrance, Taliban resurgence, and domestic politics. While the result may be a short-term boost in India-Afghanistan ties, longer-term trends are bleak. No one is fully committed to Afghanistan’s dysfunctional government. Beijing is unwilling to use its leverage over Pakistan, Washington is distracted, while Moscow and Tehran are hedging their bets. The idea of a regional concert of powers to resolve the conflict, widely mooted at the beginning of the Obama administration, is implausible today.
President Ghani’s landmark speech at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) last May seems a long time ago. “The problem, fundamentally, is not about peace with Taliban,” he had said. “The problem is fundamentally about peace between Pakistan and Afghanistan.” This was the premise of his controversial outreach to Pakistan, including a personal trip to Rawalpindi and a bungled agreement between the Afghan and Pakistani spy agencies. Mr. Ghani’s policy was borne not of naivety, but the sober realisation that if Pakistan was the taproot of the insurgency, it would also have to be the locus of diplomacy. The U.S. and China agreed, each eager to stabilise Afghanistan for their own reasons. Last July, Afghan government representatives even met senior Taliban figures in the Pakistani town of Murree, though those talks collapsed after it turned out that their backer, Mullah Omar, had long been a corpse. Even as violence grew regardless, a Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) of the U.S., China, Pakistan and Afghanistan was convened in January 2016 and met four times over the following month.
Taliban on the offensive