India and Iran Could Be Included in Afghanistan Peace Process
Thursday, July 22, 2021
Lucas Leiroz, research fellow in international law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.
Dialogues seeking a peaceful solution to the Afghan crisis are developing. Currently, Russia, the US, China, and Pakistan make up the group known as the “Extended Troika”, which is an international association that strives to resolve the armed conflict in Afghanistan. But, on Wednesday, Moscow proposed to further expand the group, inviting Iran and India to help strengthen the peace-making process.
The Extended Troika has been an important tool for the Afghan peace-making process. Having met on eight occasions since 2019, representatives from Troika’s member countries have discussed important issues concerning the Afghan problem and proposed various solutions – unfortunately, most of them were not implemented by the local authorities yet. The group’s last meeting took place on April 30 and resulted in a joint statement calling on both sides in Afghanistan to reduce the level of violence and not proceed with any military offensive. Now, the aim is to further extend the “Troika” as, with more countries signing the recommendations, more international pressure is imposed on both the Afghan government and the Taliban to implement the suggested measures.
This Wednesday, Moscow supported the inclusion of India and Iran in the Troika. The spokesman Russian Embassy in New Delhi, Dmitry Solodov, said that having Tehran and New Delhi as members of the group “would enhance its potential further”. These are his words: “Given the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, the task to shape a relevant regional consensus to support the Intra-Afghan negotiations is becoming even more vital (…) Our deep involvement in such established formats, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), including the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure, the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group and the Moscow format, is very effective and result-oriented.”
By “regional consensus”, we can understand that the Russian plan is to form an international bloc made up of the main Asian regional military powers, with all of them agreeing to propose the same joint measures to achieve peace, which would prevent either side in Afghanistan from rejecting the Troika’s proposals and seek international support with another country.
Interestingly, the Russian proposal comes after a personal interaction between officials from Moscow, Tehran and New Delhi. A few days ago, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov had personally met with Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Iranian deputy foreign minister Sayed Rasool Mohajer during a conference titled “Central and South Asia Regional Interconnectivity: Challenges and Opportunities”, in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. At the time, Lavrov announced that the “possibility of including influential external players” in Afghan peace-making process was under discussion in Moscow. “Only direct and inclusive inter-Afghan talks with the aid of international partners can establish a lasting peace”, Lavrov said at the plenary session of the Conference.
On the other hand, there are also Russian officials who disagree with the India’s inclusion. Zamir Kabulov, Russia’s special envoy to Kabul, says that including India in the Troika is not a prudent attitude, as only countries that have a relevant influence on one of the sides in the conflict should participate in the peace process. Also, Kabulov fears that India-Pakistan contradictions will be projected onto Afghanistan, which would make the process even more complicated, slow, and tense.
Kabulov believes that the shortest path to peace in Afghanistan is through a dialogue with the Taliban. According to the envoy, the Taliban is ready for a political compromise, as long as it is presented in a decent way by those involved in the process. Contrary to common thinking among Russian officials, who see the Taliban as a terrorist organization that must be fought severely, Kabulov says that Taliban leaders are no longer willing to maintain a belligerent policy, having become fed up with decades of incessant wars. For this reason, such leaders would be interested in dialoguing to seek a peaceful political solution, which would benefit all parties involved in the conflict.
Kabulov’s vision seems to work from a more pragmatic perspective. He fears that the inclusion of new countries will bring more problems than solutions and proposes that peace be negotiated with the agents already involved in the conflict. His view of the Taliban may seem strange considering the group is banned in Russia, but we have to consider the fact that the US has set a major precedent in this issue.
Since the withdrawal of troops was negotiated directly with the Taliban, the status of this group rose from a terrorist organization to a belligerent international agent – similar to a sovereign state, capable of negotiating and signing agreements with other countries. So, although for Moscow the Taliban is a terrorist group, pragmatically, it is an international organization capable of negotiating and entering into agreements, with power equivalent – or even superior – to that of the Afghan government, and which cannot be ignored in the search for peace in the country.
Whether through international pressure or by presenting a political proposal to the Taliban, peace must be achieved. The best solution is the one that will be more efficient in pacifying the country.
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