From the Times of India, January 29:
LONDON: A one-day international conference on Afghanistan on Thursday rejected India's argument that there were no degrees of Talibanism. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, hosting the conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, announced in his opening address the establishment of a $500 million 'trust fund' to buy "peace and integration" with warriors who are engaged in violence for economic rather than ideological reasons. A whopping $140 million has been pledged already for this year.
During his pre-conference discussion with the British foreign secretary David Miliband, external affairs minister S M Krishna had specifically said, "There should be no distinction between a good Taliban and a bad Taliban." But this clearly fell on deaf ears. It was also unclear whether remnants of Afghanistan's Northern Alliance, once cultivated by India, would be accommodated in any way. There was also no reference to the erstwhile foreign minister, Abdullah Abdullah, who put up a spirited fight in the first round of the recent controversial presidential election and exposed fraud before withdrawing from the contest.
Krishna was allocated a seat in the second of three rows of attendees at the conference which in itself reflected India's peripheral role in Afghan affairs in the eyes of the international community.
This, despite India being the biggest regional aid-giver to Afghanistan, with a commitment of $1.3 million. Earlier in the week, Turkey, an ally of Pakistan, did not even bother to invite India to a confabulation on Afghanistan.
Krishna was among more than 70 foreign ministers and officials of international organisations who attended the convention at the 185-year-old Lancaster House, a coveted venue for summits and high level interactions.
Pakistan supports a differentiation between Taliban segments, including being generally soft towards the Afghan Taliban, which was sponsored by the Pakistani Army's Inter-Services Intelligence. In an interview to a British daily on Thursday, foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi claimed: "Pakistan is perhaps better placed than any other country in the world to support Afghan reintegration and reconciliation."
As a goodwill gesture, the conference was preceded by a lifting of United Nations sanctions on five leaders of the obscurantist Taliban regime, which was ousted by armed forces led by the United States after the 9/11 attack on New York by the Afghanistan-based Al Qaida. Among the beneficiaries is a former foreign minister Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil.
However, Brown warned, "But those insurgents who refuse to accept the conditions for reintegration, we have no choice but to pursue them militarily."
It is widely believed that hardcore elements among the extremists will not accept the amnesty. ...
Is that moderate hardcore elements, or extreme hardcorist elementismists?
From the Times of India, January 30:
New Delhi: Swept away by an international "consensus" led by US, UK and Pakistan, India has to swallow a bitter pill on the Taliban. With the London conference on Afghanistan clearing the way for a new chapter on negotiation with the Taliban, India is grudgingly coming round to accepting the new reality.
Read "new reality" as fantasy-land.
Speaking exclusively to TOI from London, foreign minister S M Krishna said, "We're willing to give it a try. If the Taliban meet the three conditions put forward -- acceptance of the Afghan constitution [DW: a sharia-supreme constitution], severing connections with Al Qaida and other terrorist groups, and renunciation of violence, and they are accepted in the mainstream of Afghan politics and society, we could do business." ...
But he was clear about India's fundamental discomfort with the decision. India's position and assessment of the Taliban remains unchanged, Krishna said. "We consider them to be terrorists, who have close links with Al Qaida and other terrorist groups." He said India has seen the Taliban from up close, and more deeply than others ("they see them from far away" and through a blinkered vision). "We're next door and our experiences make it difficult for us to differentiate between good or bad Taliban," he said.
Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, the former Taliban foreign minister, had close links with the hijackers of IC-814, even helping to unload their baggage from the aircraft in Kandahar, and negotiating on their behalf. He has just been taken off the UN sanctions list to "facilitate" the reconciliation. ...
The London conference on Afghanistan set in motion a set of events whose outcome is not yet clear. It's driven by Afghan president Hamid Karzai, who has been pushing the reconciliation drive. India's unenthusiastic acceptance is largely in support of Karzai. But much more than that is the hard fact that on Afghanistan, despite India's huge presence, India's "influence" is negligible.
Know why? Same reason Israelis aren't officially involved in our "global" coalitions. Because it upsets Muslims. It's an Islamic thing; you wouldn't understand (unless you read the Koran). Frontline opponents of jihad are blackballed by other putative frontline opponents of jihad -- our Islamic "allies" in the "war on terror." It's a joke -- on us.
From McChrystal's infamous strategy: "While India's activities [devlopment] largely benefit the Afghan people, increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan is likely to exacerbate regional tensions and encourage Pakistani countermeasures in Afghanistan or India." In other words, if friendly India builds roads or water systems in Afghanistan, our allies in Pakistan will get violent. Back to the Times of India story:
India's objections may be valid, and will probably be borne out in the coming months and years, but for the time being, India does not count.
Pakistan, on the other hand, is calling the shots, despite the fact that majority of Afghans prefer India to Pakistan. But Pakistan is leveraging its continuing and close contacts with the Taliban and Al Qaida leadership to help work out a political deal that can get the US out of Afghanistan. In this, Pakistan's ISI, which has been pilloried for its terror links, is keen to find a way of worming its way back.
Tangled web time.
Pakistan successfully kept India out of a regional meeting on Afghanistan in Istanbul, but Turkey was acting because both the US and UK subscribe to Pakistan having a much greater role in deciding the future of Afghanistan.
There remains great scepticism in India about Taliban leaders like Mullah Omar, Sirajuddin Haqqani and the Quetta Shura coming into the Afghan mainstream. However, UN officials went on record to say that the UN representative in Afghanistan, Kai Eide, had recently met "active" members of the Taliban leadership and a future meeting is due to be held in Dubai.