Likening the U.S.-Taliban agreement at Doha to the long awaited release of a film, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said India is “watching the space” closely to ensure that gains of the last two decades are not lost.
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“[The agreement] has been talked about for so long it is almost like finally seeing Pakeezah after 17 trailers,” Mr. Jaishankar said, referring to the 1972 Hindi film, which took 15 years to complete.
Gains at stake
“How it plays out, only time will tell…This is not the Afghanistan of 2001. To the United States and the West, our message is that the achievements of the last 18 years should be protected and not jeopardised,” he added.
While India has raised concerns over the future of democracy, human rights, women’s rights and other achievements made in Afghanistan since 2001, when the Taliban regime was last defeated, the issues were not addressed in the agreement between the U.S. and Taliban signed by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompey on February 29. The agreement provides a timetable for withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan by May 2021 and an intra-Afghan dialogue in March 2020.
Speaking at the Centre for Policy Research’s “Dialogue 2020”, in conversation with former Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran, Mr. Jaishankar also said he believed the “real negotiations” would only begin now — a possible reference to the Intra-Afghan dialogue due to begin on March 10, as well as a Pakistan-Afghanistan dialogue facilitated by Washington on securing borders and ending terror safe havens.
“How cohesive are the various players... does the Taliban join the democratic set up, or will the democratic set up have to adjust to the Taliban...We are all watching this space,” the Minister said.
India stopped short of welcoming the U.S.-Taliban and U.S. -Afghanistan agreements announced on Saturday, texts of which were widely distributed in the media. According to an MEA statement, India “noted that the entire political spectrum in Afghanistan... has welcomed the opportunity and hope for peace and stability generated by these agreements.”
In sharp contrast, India had welcomed and congratulated President Ghani on winning the recently-held elections in Afghanistan. The U.S.-Taliban agreement does not indicate what the future of the Ghani government will be, describing instead a “new post-settlement Islamic Afghanistan government”, which has also been noted with concern by experts in India.