Limits of diplomacy
The American failure to establish any sort of peace accord with the Taliban in Afghanistan highlights diplomatic limitations
The yearlong efforts of Zalmay Khalilzad, the US representative holding talks with Taliban to hammer out some sort of 'Peace Accord' – primarily to facilitate withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan – have come apart with President Donald Trump rejecting the diplomatic exercise following a fresh terror attack by the Taliban in Kabul.
Khalilzad has been recalled to the US and there is a new situation now in Afghanistan as the country's General Election draws closer. Taliban has been exposed as an incorrigible set of Islamic extremists wedded to jihad to achieve their objective. Likewise, the collusive role of Pakistan in sheltering a lot of Taliban leaders of Afghanistan on its soil has been exposed by the Taliban leadership itself.
President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo realised once again how diplomatic moves do not work against terrorists and gave up on Zalmay's initiatives, even to the extent of considering a continued strong military presence in Afghanistan. The US President was never too trusting of the Islamic militants wherever they were and the abandoning of the negotiation with the Taliban will hopefully lead him to a re-evaluate Pakistan as the hub of Islamic terror groups.
Mohammad Suhail Shaheen, spokesman of Taliban came on TV in Kabul to respond to Donald Trump's decision. His speech established how nothing had changed to the advantage of the US in the face of the creed of faith-based violence that the Taliban was committed to. He furthermore confirmed a widely known fact Taliban derived sustenance from Pakistan for pursuing 'Islamic interests'.
Shaheen's statement demonstrated how Islamic radicals can never be expected to leave the path of violence and how Zalmay might have allowed himself to be duped by the Taliban-Pakistan combine on the questions of 'ceasefire' and peace agreement. In the background, Taliban and Pakistan worked for the restoration of the Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan which would relegate the democratic rule of Ashraf Ghani to the background.
It was a strategic error on the part of the US interlocutor to hold talks with the Taliban on the back of the present democratic regime in Afghanistan. Diplomacy can never succeed if it handles only the peripherals without tackling the main problem. In the absence of a 'ceasefire', US troops had rightly kept up their counter-terror operations and the Taliban revealed its true colour as a violent Islamic force by carrying out a suicide attack on a US army truck at Kabul killing an American soldier.
Apparently this happened when Zalmay had already submitted the draft 'peace pact' to the US President without sorting out the vital issue of 'ceasefire'. The Taliban spokesman justified the retaliatory act at Kabul showing how the Taliban was totally recalcitrant about not accepting the cessation of its violent methods as a precondition for a peace accord.
These developments in Afghanistan underscore the need for the democratic world to wake up to the continuing threat of Islamic terror emanating out of the Muslim world. Zalmay's mission is a telling example of how diplomacy runs into limitations when dealing with advocates of violence blinded by fanaticism.
The world must call for an express denunciation of Jihad as an instrument of the pursuit of political objectives in today's world as it has been used by individual Islamic countries and by the Organisation of Islamic Conference chaired by Saudi Arabia itself. It goes to the credit of Trump's presidency that the artificial distinction, promoted earlier by narrow political interests – between 'good terrorists' and 'bad terrorists' had been abolished. Furthermore, to the great relief of India, Pakistan was called out by the US upfront for providing safe haven to Islamic militants across the spectrum.
India, US, Russia and European countries that see the menace of this new terror must work together in Afghanistan to install a democratic regime there. The world must take the 'war on terror' to its logical conclusion. It is becoming difficult to get any voice from the Muslim world that upholds the Democratic Republic as the obvious preference over an Islamic State.
The inherent political asymmetry between a democratic India – that houses more Muslims than Pakistan -– and the Islamic State of Pakistan is a fundamental roadblock between the two countries. The situation is only becoming worse with Pakistan projecting Kashmir as a Muslim issue and openly calling for jihad to bolster its sinister game plan against India. The case of Afghanistan shows how diplomatic instruments will not succeed against those who had taken to terrorist violence to get their way on political issues.
India must firmly stick to the policy of 'terror and talks do not go together' and use its diplomatic prowess to convince the democratic nations. The challenge for India in Kashmir is to protect the Kashmiris from the onslaught of hardened Pak terrorists of Lashkar-e-Taiba who infiltrate from across the LoC and are intent on destroying the cultural values of Kashmiriyat and browbeating the law-abiding Kashmiris into submission to the oppressive Salafism.
As terrorists are beaten back, people in the valley would be willing to come out in freedom and markets would start opening up, overcoming the sense of fear of the militants. The world should know that during this short period of prohibition in Kashmir, there have been no casualties.
The Centre has taken direct responsibility for providing development and security to people of Jammu and Kashmir that they were kept from because of the Pakistan-sponsored cross border terrorism. India is committed to restoring the statehood of J&K in due course of time. The saga of Kashmir has been all about people falling victim to terror and not a case of denial of Human Rights. Pakistan's failed attempt to muster any strength in UNHRC vindicates India's transparent stand on Kashmir.
(The writer is a former Director of Intelligence Bureau. The views expressed are strictly personal)
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