The Afghan conflict has also been caught up in the current tensions between Russia and the US.
New Delhi: India is doing a delicate balancing act by participating at a “non-official” level through retired diplomats at a conference on Afghanistan organised by time-tested friend Russia in Moscow on November 9, where the Taliban is due to participate. Speculation is rife that this could be one of the reasons why New Delhi is not taking part at an official level, since it would mean sharing the stage with the Taliban. Nevertheless, even if at the non-official level, it could possibly be the first time that India will be sitting at the same table with the Afghan Taliban.
It is also learnt that two distinguished retired Indian diplomats — former ambassador to Afghanistan Amar Sinha and former high commissioner to Pakistan T.C.A. Raghavan — could be participating in the conference. Government sources, however, said New Delhi’s non-official participation was because Afghanistan too was participating at a non-official level. Kabul is said to be miffed over some of the aspects of the conference and given India’s close ties with the Afghan government, New Delhi is taking the cue from Kabul. At the same time, India has also not been able to ignore the conference since it has had a decades-long time-tested friendship with host Russia.
In a statement, the external affairs ministry said: “We are aware that the Russian Federation is hosting a meeting in Moscow on 9 November on Afghanistan. India supports all efforts at peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan that will preserve unity and plurality, and bring security, stability and prosperity to the country. India’s consistent policy has been that such efforts should be Afghan-led, Afghan owned, and Afghan-controlled and with participation of the Government of Afghanistan. Our participation at the meeting will be at the non-official level.”
However, New Delhi is worried since Russia is seen to have suddenly gone soft on the Afghan Taliban and its main backer Pakistan. The Taliban has carried out several terrorist attacks in Afghanistan in recent times and had even captured power in Afghanistan with Pakistani support from 1996 to 2001, when it was driven out of Kabul by the United States following the 9/11 attacks on America.
The Afghan conflict has also been caught up in the current tensions between Russia and the US. The US is a powerful backer of the Afghan government while the Russians are reportedly feeling left out. The US is probably participating at a junior level diplomatically at the conference through the US embassy in Moscow.
Russia has had an historical ill-fated involvement as the Soviet Union in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989, when thousands of Soviet soldiers were killed by the then US-backed and Pakistan-backed Afghan Mujahideen. It is therefore ironical that Russia is now seen as having gone soft on both the Taliban and Pakistan.