Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Delhi declaration

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Afghanistan was at the centre of two geopolitical engagements this week – with India hosting an eight-nation regional meet of National Security Advisers on Wednesday and Pakistan matching it with a meeting of the Troika Plus – drawing in the US, Russia and China – a day later. Curiously, Russia took part in both the meetings. The first meeting, hosted by NSA Ajit Doval, ended with a Delhi Declaration, in which a joint resolution said Afghanistan’s land should not be used by anyone for “sheltering, training, planning or financing” terrorism. The call was also to remove hurdles in the way of funds flow to the cash-strapped nation, and inclusion — by the ruling Taliban — of all interest-groups in the country in the administrative and political structures of Afghanistan. It also stressed on the protection and promotion of the rights of women, children and minority groups.
While all these are important matters, how much leverage these participating nations — Russia, Iran, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan apart from India – have on the ruling establishment or the Taliban per se, is the big question. Both Russia and Iran are big names while the others have minor clout. India has its strength, though its application is a different matter. A warning by Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath that if Afghanistan created problems for India in Kashmir Valley, fighter planes are “ready” to take on the Taliban is perhaps an expression of the mood in the ruling BJP. India remains a soft power. The soft-pedalling of India’s defence push over the past decades has kept it in a weak position. Saying that we have a large arsenal or fighter jets alone will not do. Those who led the nation were not ready and willing for a confrontation and opted, so far, to follow the path of peace –meaning a lack of guts for confrontation. This was evident also in the recent provocations from China in Ladakh, Doklam on the Bhutanese side, and elsewhere on the Line of Actual Control, or even the LoC on the Pakistani side.
The past 20 years saw China emerging as a super power in both military and economic terms. Beijing is now keen on checkmating India here, there and everywhere. India’s scope for confrontation has further reduced. Worse, China’s collusion with Pakistan and now with Afghanistan too further complicates regional geopolitics. The Delhi declaration, per se, means little. Russia has already developed cold feet on many of the “calls” contained in the Declaration. Afghanistan “welcoming” the Declaration by itself means little, too.

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