Routes to Afghanistan: on 2+2 talks
Mains Paper: 2 | International Relations
Prelims level: 2+2 talks
Mains level: The 2+2 talks must take into account U.S. policy as well as India’s own role in the region
- U.S. President Donald Trump announced his “South Asia policy” for Afghanistan, senior American officials will be in the region for talks this week.
- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary James Mattis visit Delhi for the first 2+2 talks on Thursday with their Indian counterparts, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
- Mr. Mattis is expected to come via Kabul, while Mr. Pompeo and U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, will swing by Islamabad.
From the perspective of Afghanistan
- Afghanistan today is by no means how Mr. Trump had envisioned it in terms of the security situation, regional solutions for the peace process as well as economic development.
- The past few weeks have seen a spike in violence, with the Taliban carrying out a set of coordinated assaults around Afghanistan, rejecting an offer of a three-month ceasefire by President Ashraf Ghani and laying siege to Ghazni city.
- Before U.S. Special Forces and the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces were able to clear them out, the Taliban had shown up the fragile hold Kabul has on this provincial capital less than 150 km away.
- The fight against the Taliban took massive U.S. air fire power as well to finally secure Ghazni, with the once bustling city now war-torn.
- While the Taliban suffered heavy casualties, so did the Afghan Army.
- The impact of the Taliban assault in Ghazni and other cities in August, including the deadly bombing of a Kabul school, was three-fold.
- The violence this year has also put 2018 on course to be the deadliest year for Afghan civilians, with an average of nine people killed every day, according to UN data.
- Kabul’s security structure has seen a dramatic series of sackings and resignations in the aftermath.
- National Security Adviser Hanif Atmar has been replaced by Afghanistan’s Ambassador to the U.S., Hamdullah Mohib.
- The developments, along with the faltering peace process, will make the task of holding parliamentary elections due in October, as well as presidential elections in April 2019, much more challenging.
From the perspective of Iran
- The Trump administration’s collision course with Iran is another hurdle to realising its South Asia policy.
- Iran is a neighbour to both Afghanistan and Pakistan, and any action against Tehran will have consequences on the region.
- The new American push to sanction and isolate Iran by November will undoubtedly shift the focus from the task of resolving the situation in Afghanistan.
- This mirrors earlier U.S. offensive actions — in Iraq in 2003, Libya in 2011, Syria in 2014 — each of which took its eye off the ball in Afghanistan.
- Iran is also an alternative route for landlocked Afghanistan’s trade routes to the sea, which ties in with India’s desire to circumvent Pakistan by developing the Chabahar port.
- It may have benefited from access to the alternative supply lines to U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.
- Insisting instead on India cutting off ties with Iran, as successive U.S. delegations have done in the past few months, will only jeopardise this route, and affect Iran’s desire to assist with the access.
From the perspective of India
- India must focus on assisting Afghanistan in every manner possible to ensure that the country’s elections are as peaceful and participative as possible.
- India’s development assistance has been the source of its considerable influence and goodwill among Afghan citizens, and this is not the time to make cuts.
- The outlay for 2017-18 at ₹365.96 crore was far lower than its commitment in 2015-2016 at ₹880.44 crore, according to figures tabled in Parliament.
- The major projects, such as the Salma Dam and Parliament building in Kabul, that began in 2008-09, have now been completed.
- But this begs the question, why are more ambitious projects not being planned?
Look at the double-quick
- India must move quickly to provide helicopters as well as engineering/tech support for Afghan hardware.
- India’s plans at Chabahar are equally important to its efforts at keeping its lines to Afghanistan independent of other considerations.
- Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale’s visit to Kabul next week for a trilateral India-Afghanistan-Iran meeting will be important to take them forward.
- The government must realise that its consistent undermining of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) because of problems with Pakistan.
- It is also weakening Afghanistan’s engagement with the subcontinent, which India had worked hard to foster.
- The conversations at the 2+2 meet on Thursday must take into account not just India’s role in Mr. Trump’s South Asia policy but its own role in its neighbourhood.
UPSC Prelims Questions:
Q.1) 1. Consider the following statements
1. It is a diplomatic arrangement between India and U.S.
2. It is going to be held in July in which Indian External Affairs and Defence Ministry will held meeting with their U.S counterparts.
3. It is expected to further cement the India-U.S. engagements.
4. It key focus areas will be concluding COMCASA and BECA pacts.
Choose the correct statement(s) from the above
A. 1 only
B. 2 and 4only
C. 2 and 3 only
D. All of the above
UPSC Mains Questions:
Q.1) Importance of 2+2 talks from the context of Afghanistan.