Delhi Feared US Bid Could Plunge Af Back Into A Civil War And En­able Pak To Move Ji­hadis To­wards India

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times Global - In­[email protected]

US President Don­ald Trump’s shock an­nounce­ment that he had called off the peace ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Tal­iban brings the re­gion back to where it had started. Apart from Pak­istan, all other pow­ers in the re­gion have col­lec­tively breathed a quiet sigh of re­lief.

India, which had been vir­tu­ally out in the cold in the talks, sees more re­gional stability in the loss of the deal rather than in its com­ple­tion. The deal it­self was seen in New Delhi as a with­drawal agree­ment rather than a peace deal. This sen­ti­ment was echoed by many in the re­gion — the Afghan gov­ern­ment it­self and al­most all of the Cen­tral Asian re­publics. Moscow, which hosted its own track of peace talks with the Tal­iban (with two meet­ings in Fe­bru­ary and May), is the other power that be­lieves mak­ing a deal with the Tal­iban would bring peace to Afghanista­n and keep Is­lamic State ter­ror group at bay.

India’s de­ci­sion to strip Ar­ti­cle 370 in J&K, while al­ways on the Modi gov­ern­ment’s agenda, was trig­gered by the prospect of in­creased re­gional in­sta­bil­ity once the Pak­istan-Tal­iban-US deal came into be­ing. Top level sources told TOI that it wasn’t just the Trump-Im­ran meet­ing or the “me­di­a­tion” that spooked India.

On Septem­ber 2, the Amer­i­can spe­cial en­voy had told Afghanista­n lead­ers that US would pull 5,400 troops from Afghanista­n within 135 days of sign­ing an agree­ment with the Tal­iban

The US at­tempt to white­wash the Tal­iban as it headed for the exit would do two things — plunge Afghanista­n back into a civil war and en­able Pak­istan to move its ji­hadis to­wards India, par­tic­u­larly Kash­mir. The gov­ern­ment also feared that a post-So­viet sit­u­a­tion could re­turn to Afghanista­n, and spill over into Kash­mir. In the past 18 years, no In­dian gov­ern­ment has be­gun talks with the Tal­iban as a le­git­i­mate ac­tor, re­sist­ing many calls to do so. Trump’s an­nounce­ment came on the day for­eign min­is­ters of Pak­istan, China and Afghanista­n were meet­ing in Is­lam­abad to work out fu­ture plans af­ter the USTal­iban peace agree­ment. This de­vel­op­ment has been the hard­est blow to Pak­istan and, by extension, China.

In the past few months, Pak­istan has en­joyed grow­ing sa

lience in the west, as Is­lam­abad was seen to be “de­liv­er­ing” the Tal­iban to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble, start­ing with re­leas­ing Tal­iban’s co-founder Mul­lah Baradar from prison to conduct the talks in Doha. Pak­istan has main­tained that keep­ing Tal­iban in the power struc­ture in Kabul would be key to peace. Tal­iban, whose primary men­tor and spon­sor is Pak­istan, had refused to talk to the elected gov­ern­ment.

Pak­istan has used its pu­ta­tive role in the Afghan peace process to push its pres­sure tactics on Kash­mir. In re­cent weeks, Pak­istan has used the nuclear bo­gey to paint a spec­tre of a flash­point be­tween India and Pak­istan which it said could af­fect a peace deal in Afghanista­n. Trump’s an­nounce­ment re­moved that false lever­age from Is­lam­abad.

Now, it can not only not di

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