AIR Discussions (November 2nd Week)
AIR SPOTLIGHT: DELHI REGIONAL SECURITY DIALOGUE ON AFGHANISTAN
Context: India hosted the ‘Delhi Regional Security Dialogue on Afghanistan’.
Details of the meet:
- The meeting was held at the level of National Security Advisors (NSAs) and was chaired by NSA Ajit Doval.
- India’s top security establishment, the National Security Council Secretariat, has taken the lead in organising the in-person meeting.
- The Heads of the National Security Councils of seven nations (Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) collectively called on Prime Minister after the completion of the Dialogue.
- PM emphasised four aspects that countries in the region would need to focus on, in the context of Afghanistan:
- the need for an inclusive government;
- a zero-tolerance stance about Afghan territory being used by terrorist groups;
- a strategy to counter trafficking of drugs and arms from Afghanistan;
- and addressing the increasingly critical humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
Highlights of the Delhi Declaration:
- Reiterated strong support for a peaceful, secure and stable Afghanistan while emphasising the respect for sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity and non-interference in its internal affairs.
- Committed to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
- Urged the regional members to ensure that Afghanistan would never become a safe haven for global terrorism.
- To ensure the fundamental rights of women, children and minority communities are not violated.
- Called for a collective cooperation against the menace of radicalization, extremism, separatism and drug trafficking in the region.
- Recalling the relevant UN Resolutions on Afghanistan, they noted that the United Nations’ (UN) continued presence in the country must be preserved.
Response by the Regional Countries:
- Russia held that multiple dialogue mechanisms “should not complicate” the unfolding situation in the Taliban controlled Afghanistan.
- Pakistan and China too were invited to participate in the consultation but both stayed away.
- Moreover, there was no representation from the erstwhile Afghan government or the Taliban.
- Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan’s NSAs did not mention the word terrorism at all in their opening statements.
What is India’s thinking regarding the conference?
- This could be India’s attempt to secure for itself a seat at the table to decide the future course of action on Afghanistan.
- Until the fall of Kabul, India had not engaged with the Taliban through publicly-announced official channels.
- New Delhi has made it clear that there are red lines around the actions of the new Taliban dispensation in Afghanistan.
- The high-level participation at the meeting being hosted by India reflects the widespread and growing concern of regional countries about the situation in Afghanistan and their desire to consult and coordinate with each other.
- According to an Indian assessment, the five main threats and challenges following the Taliban takeover are:
- Terrorism within Afghanistan and across its borders,
- Radicalisation and extremism,
- Cross-border movements,
- Drug production and trafficking,
- And the danger posed by vast amounts of weapons and military gear left behind by US troops.
CHALLENGES FOR INDIA:
- Recognising the Taliban regime:
- Recently talks comprising 12 countries including India, U.N. representatives and Afghan representatives with the Taliban in Doha, a nine-point statement issued made it clear that they will “not recognise any government in Afghanistan that is imposed through the use of military force”.
- Recognising Taliban is particularly difficult for India, which was closely allied to the Afghan government, and helped build democratic and constitutional processes there, and sees the treatment of women and minorities as integral to those processes.
- India is President of the U.N. Security Council this month, and must take decisions on whether to convene meetings on Afghanistan’s future, including possible sanctions, and is also chairing the committee on Taliban sanctions.
- Dealing with the Taliban regime:
- Regardless of whether or not India recognises the Taliban as the legitimate ruler in Afghanistan, the government will have to open channels of communication to engage the Taliban.
- In the past few months, security officials and diplomats have made initial, furtive contact with the Taliban in Doha, and the MEA said it is engaging “various stakeholders” in Afghanistan.
- Those links will have to be broadened in order to ensure the safety of Indians and the Embassy in Kabul to start with, but also logistical requirements, like using Afghan airspace, transit trade, humanitarian assistance etc in the future.
- Government officials have often said that they would not like a repeat of the situation during the IC-814 hijacking, when India had no ability to contact the Taliban at all.
- India reaching out to the Taliban signals acknowledgement from the Indian side that the Taliban would play a critical role in Afghanistan in the coming years.
- India has three critical areas in dealing with the Taliban.
- protecting its investments, which run into billions of rupees, in Afghanistan
- preventing a future Taliban regime from being a pawn of Rawalpindi;
- making sure that the Pakistan-backed anti-India terrorist groups do not get support from the Taliban.
- Strategic choices with Afghanistan:
- how its strategic options in Afghanistan will change given the Taliban’s proximity to Pakistan’s establishment
- India’s influence with the new government is likely to be considerably curtailed, as Pakistan’s influence over the Taliban remains strong, and the government will have to reconsider whether to now engage Pakistan directly as well
- Concerns that anti-India terror groups could occupy space in Afghanistan to carry out terror attacks against India
- Other strategic issues involving future connectivity, which India had sought to do via Chabahar port in Iran, must also be considered in the longer term. Trade through Afghanistan under a Taliban regime would be routed through Karachi and Gwadar, and the Indian investment in the Chabahar port, meant to circumvent Pakistan, may become unviable.
- The Taliban’s control will also mean a bigger hand for the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies to influence outcomes for the country.
- For New Delhi, already countering hostilities at the LAC with China and the LoC with Pakistan, an unfriendly government in Kabul can only complicate its strategic options.
- The Indian-built projects, including the already built Zaranj-Delaram Highway and Salma Dam, are already under Taliban control, and a cloud hangs over those under construction, including check-dams, schools and urban projects.
- Threat of radicalisation: the threat of growing radicalisation and space for pan-Islamic terror groups in India’s neighbourhood.
- New Regional Geopolitical Developments: There can be new regional geopolitical alignments (such as China-Pakistan-Taliban) which may go against the interests of India.
- Impact on Afghanistan: there is the worry for India of the impact on Afghanistan itself, given the Taliban’s past record in power, of an erosion in women’s and minority rights, the overturning of a democratic system and the imposition of the Taliban’s brutal form of justice. A Taliban regime in Kabul will have fewer international partners, and receive far less financial assistance, the impact of which will be felt most keenly by Afghanistan’s most vulnerable.
WHY IS AFGHANISTAN IMPORTANT FOR INDIA?
- Security: A stable Afghanistan is crucial for regional and domestic security and stability for India.
- Connectivity: The most important role of Afghanistan is always considered as India’s gateway to Central Asia.
- Energy ambitions: Peaceful Afghan is essential to address the energy needs of India.
- Regional Balance of Power: Afghanistan is tied to India’s vision of being a regional leader and a great power, coupled with its competition with China over resources and its need to counter Pakistani influence.
- Natural Resources: The country is home to resource deposits worth one trillion dollars, according to the US Geological Survey.
- India’s development initiatives:
- Address the immediate challenges:
- India must make all possible efforts to get the international community to hold the Taliban to its word on letting all foreigners leave in peace, protecting the lives of all Afghan citizens and respecting international humanitarian law.
- As a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, Delhi will have a voice in shaping the international debate on the situation in Afghanistan.
- Tensions are bound to rise on India’s western borders. Delhi must maintain vigil against a resurgence of cross-border terrorism that could quickly destabilise Kashmir and escalate the conflict between India and Pakistan.
- Options available:
- The first option is to stick to its principle of backing only a democratically-elected government in Kabul, and providing political and humanitarian support while that lasts.
- The second would be to go further and supply the ANDSF with military supplies, including ammunition and air power, possibly via the Iranian route.
- The third would be to accelerate contacts with the Taliban.
- Finally, India could simply wait and watch, until the chaos of conflict reveals a winning side, and weigh its options accordingly. This option seems expedient , but it also denies India relevance at the “high table” where Afghanistan’s future is being discussed.
- Broader Diplomatic Engagement: India should consider appointing a special envoy dedicated to Afghanistan. The envoy can ensure that Indian views are expressed at every meeting, and broaden engagement with the Taliban.
- Decoupling of Taliban-Pakistan: The Taliban is bound to seek a measure of autonomy from Pakistan. India will have to wait a while before the current issues between India and the Taliban can be overcome.
- Balancing the Opportunities in Afghanistan: Structuring the internal balance of power within Afghanistan has always been hard. However, for a patient, open-minded and active India, there will be no dearth of balancing opportunities in Afghanistan.
- Leverage Indian Infrastructural Developments: Indian USD 3 billion assistance to Afghanistan is in concrete projects that serve its population and have earned it their goodwill that will endure.
- Continued Training and Investments:
- India should provide more military training to Afghan security forces and invest in longer-term capacity-building programs.
- It should actively support and invest in the National Directorate of Security
- Finally, given the continued levels of violence and the impact of the coronavirus on the Afghan economy, India should expand its development assistance.
NEWS IN BRIEF: PRELIMS SPECIAL
UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN)
- Srinagar has joined UNESCO’s network of creative cities and has been designated as a creative city of craft and folk arts.
- Along with Srinagar, 49 cities have newly joined the Creative Cities Network in recognition of their commitment to placing culture and creativity at the heart of their development and to sharing knowledge and good practices.
- Other Indian cities that are in the network are:
- Chennai and Varanasi – UNESCO cities of music
- Jaipur – UNESCO city of crafts and folk arts
- Mumbai – UNESCO city of film
- Hyderabad – UNESCO city of gastronomy
- Currently, UCCN has 295 cities in 90 countries.
- The UCCN was created in 2004 to promote cooperation with and among cities that have identified creativity as a strategic factor for sustainable urban development
Nutrition Smart Villages
- The programme on ‘Nutrition Smart Village’ has been initiated to strengthen India’s fight against malnutrition.
- This will also take the ‘Poshan Abhiyan’ flagship scheme towards further progress.
- It aims to improve the nutritional status of 75 villages across the country.
- The major purpose of this programme is to make the villages malnutrition free. Concepts such as Nutri-village/Nutri-food/ Nutri-Thali/Nutri-diet are important areas of focus.
- The programme offers a platform for the exchange of traditional methods to fight malnutrition.
- This initiative will lead to the betterment of the overall nutritional profile of women and children in the rural areas who are vulnerable to the implications of malnutrition.
USA Becomes the 101st Member of the International Solar Alliance
- The US Special Presidential Envoy, in the COP26 Summit, made a landmark declaration confirming the membership of the USA to the International Solar Alliance.
- India and France have been re-elected as the President and Co-President of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) for a term of two years at the virtual third Assembly of ISA.
- The Assembly approved institutionalizing ISA’s engagement with the private and public corporate sector through the Coalition for Sustainable Climate Action (CSCA).
- Various solar awards were confered like – Visvesvaraya award for recognizing the countries with a maximum floating solar capacity, the Kalpana Chawla award for the outstanding contribution of scientists and engineers working in the field of solar energy and the Diwakar award recognizes organizations and institutions that have been working for the benefit of differently-abled people and have maximized the use of solar energy in the host country.
- The ISA has recently signed a tripartite agreement with the World Bank and the Government of India and is now actively involved in preparing a vision and implementation plan for “One Sun, One World, One Grid”
- Government of India launched the E-Amrit web portal on electric vehicles at the COP26 Summit in Glasgow.
- It acts as the one-stop destination for providing all information about electric vehicles and the myths surrounding them including their adoption, purchase, investment opportunities, policies and subsidies.
- The portal has been developed by NITI Aayog in association with the UK government to boost the UK-India Roadmap 2030.
- The important purpose of the E-Amrit portal is to increase awareness about electrical vehicles and encourage people to switch to such vehicles.