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UNSC inches closer to involvement in Afghan peace talks

Tribune News Service
New Delhi, August 4

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar will quarterback India’s efforts to bring Afghanistan on the UNSC agenda rather than allowing the situation to drift in the absence of an anchor where nations can reconcile differences and urge the Taliban to enter into meaningful peace talks.

Jaishankar is expected to be in New York towards the middle of this month when the expectations are that the UNSC would have moved some way in taking up the issue of Afghanistan by way of a discussion and resolution.

India is already backing the efforts of Estonian and Norway, the “penholders” in UNSC on Afghanistan, for moving forward on Afghanistan. Both countries, coincidentally, lost soldiers to Taliban attacks in Afghanistan.

Three recent developments indicate that the stage may shift from Doha which sources here do not believe was conducive to negotiations.

The Taliban made the mistake of attacking a UN compound in Herat which gave the opportunity for the Indian Permanent Representative TS Tirumurti to marshal support for a condemnatory statement. Seizing the opportunity, the statement went further by expressing deep concern about the Taliban’s military offensive and the number of reported serious human rights abuses and violations in communities affected by the ongoing armed conflict across the country. More importantly, the statement declared that the UNSC members do not support the restoration of the “Islamic Emirate”, thus directly opposing this demand from the more extremist Taliban factions.

Second, the Afghan Foreign Minister Hanif Atmar has also been appealing for UNSC discussions on Afghanistan, most recently in a phone call to Jaishankar. For a Government in Kabul that will run its military on western assistance, this is a call none of them can ignore, said sources here.

Third, the White House’s unequivocal backing to the Kabul regime with messages of support being delivered frequently indicates its distaste to matters being decided on the battlefield. Tuesday, in yet another phone call, US Secretary of State Antony Binken called up Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to discuss the need to accelerate peace negotiations, as a follow up to his US President where Biden hosted him at the White House.

More instructive is the Pakistani reaction to the close US-Afghan parleys, pointed out sources. Islamabad is chafing at the lack of high-level contact between the political leaders with Pakistan NSA Moeed Yusuf complaining that “the US President hasn’t spoken to the PM of such an important country who the US itself says is make-or-break in some cases, in some ways, in Afghanistan — we struggle to understand the signal, right?”

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