Pakistan’s overtures to the US for bombing Tehreek-e-Taliban opens up interesting possibility for India’s Afghanistan policy
By Guru Aiyar (@guruaiyar)
The recent statement by General Raheel Sharif, Chief of Pakistan army exhorting the US to bomb Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) hideouts in Afghanistan must be taken with a pinch of salt by the policy makers in India. Not even a month back, Pakistan had made shrill protests when a US drone killed the Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Mansour. The Pakistani anger was obvious at its territorial integrity being violated as Mansour was targeted in Balochistan. Moreover, Pakistan has always been making the distinction between what it calls the ‘good’ Taliban (under its present leader Haibatullah Akhundzada) and ‘bad’ Taliban (under Mullah Fazlullah).
It was the TTP which claimed responsibility for massacre of school children in Peshawar in November 2014. The Pakistani military establishment went after the outfit that tremendously enhanced the army’s image among the general public. However, it has always shielded the Taliban that has brutally engaged the security forces of Afghanistan and the US. After the rout of Taliban by the US forces post 9/11, it was Pakistan which was seen as the brain behind the escape of their top leadership. There were allegations of the US having quietly acquiesced to the infamous Kunduz airlift in November 2001 just to placate Musharraf.
Much has occurred after that event. After spending close to a decade and a half, the US drawdown is a reality. As Obama Presidency draws to a close, the US administration would not be hostile to any Indian move. The drawdown of US forces has further emboldened Taliban. It has rejected any peace moves by the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) consisting of the US, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The feared Haqqani network in league with the Afghan Taliban has started to unleash violence as never before. As part of their spring offensive, the Taliban have set off deadly bomb attacks killing 54 in April and another 10 in May 2016. In the midst of all this, what are the options for India?
India must seize this opportunity of US drawdown and bat for a representation in any grouping that hopes to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan. As there are ample hints of cleavages in the Taliban, India must assist those factions that are open to peace. This could be a complex task as the Afghan society is divided along the lines of tribal and clan loyalties. The emasculated role of the US must make way for a larger role for India in Afghanistan without placing boots on ground.
Guru Aiyar is a Research Scholar with the Takshashila Institution and tweets @guruaiyar.
Featured Image : Afghanistan by Ricardo’s Photography, licensed from creativecommons.org