India left out of the meeting on peace in a meeting of what it calls the “6+2+1” group on regional efforts to support peace in Afghanistan.
What is the “6+2+1” group?
Earlier this month, the United Nations Secretariat held a meeting of what it calls the “6+2+1” group on regional efforts to support peace in Afghanistan.
The group includes six neighbouring countries of Afghanistan namely China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
The '2' indicates the two global players - the U.S. and Russia, and '1', Afghanistan itself.
India's absence was evident, given its historical and strategic ties with Afghanistan.
Reasons for no involvement of India:
In 2020, the reason given for keeping India out of regional discussions on Afghanistan was ostensible that it holds no “boundary” with Afghanistan.
But in fact, it is because New Delhi has never announced its support for the U.S.-Taliban peace process.
As planners in South Block now consider their next steps in Afghanistan, they must fight back against the idea that any lasting solution in Afghanistan can be discussed without India in the room, while also studying the reasons for such exclusions.
The U.S.-Taliban peace deal only means that the Taliban will become more potent as the U.S. withdraws soldiers from the country.
India maintains that only an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, and Afghan-controlled process can be allowed.
What should India do?
India must also pursue opportunities to fulfil its role in the peace efforts in Afghanistan, starting with efforts to bridge the Ghani-Abdullah divide.
An understanding between Iran and the U.S. on Afghanistan is necessary for a lasting peace as well, and India could play a mediatory part.
India should also use the UN's call for a pause in conflicts during the novel coronavirus pandemic, to ensure a hold on hostilities with Pakistan.
The following should assure India a leading position in Afghanistan’s regional formulation:
India’s assistance of more than $3 billion in projects
trade of about $1 billion
a $20 billion projected development expenditure of an alternate route through Chabahar
India's support to the Afghan National Army, bureaucrats, doctors and other professionals for training
Three major projects include the Afghan Parliament, the Zaranj-Delaram Highway, and the Afghanistan-India Friendship Dam (Salma Dam).
These and other hundreds of small development projects have cemented India's position there, regardless of Pakistan’s attempts to undermine it.