India Wary As Haqqanis May Join Peace Process

A prospective Afghan political deal crafted by US secretary of state John Kerry and Pakistan army chief Ashfaq Kayani threatens to sink Afghan president Hamid Karzai. As the Taliban set up an office in Doha to start peace talks with the US, dressed up in their old flag and named the Islamic emirate of Afghanistan, in one fell swoop, the gesture marginalized Karzai, presaged a future Taliban role in Afghan government and revived Pakistan’s political fortunes with the US.

The new situation has profoundly negative implications for India’s security, particularly if the Haqqani network is added to the talks as Pakistan desires. India has promised to take up the issue with Kerry during the strategic dialogue to be held here next week. In Baghdad, foreign minister Salman Khurshid said, “We have from time to time reminded all stakeholders about the red lines that were drawn by the world community and certainly, by the participants (these) should not be touched, should not be erased and should not be violated.”

The ‘red lines’ included a renunciation of Taliban’s links with al-Qaida and an acceptance of the Afghan constitution. However, its been a couple of years since the US has abandoned all preconditions for talks with Taliban. India is one of the largest donors to Afghanistan’s stabilization, but it has a minimal role in the political chess-game currently under way, which will minimize India’s security concerns in the larger transition. Officials in Kabul said despite repeated assurances to Karzai by the US, the Taliban went ahead to set themselves up almost as a government in exile.

Their initial statement said, as an afterthought, that they could even talk to “Afghans”, but not the government.With the Taliban also opening talks with Iran as well as with the former Northern Alliance, the US, helped by Pakistan, could be preparing the way to bring the Taliban back into government in Kabul, a decade after they were removed from power by the US invasion.

For the present, the Taliban in Doha, with the blessings of the US and Qatar, is more than an Afghan insurgent group. Just by the very fact that they are not in Afghanistan, its very easy for them to scale up their international profile to position themselves as a challenger or alternative Afghan government.

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