India ok with reconciliation with Taliban, opposes power-sharing

May 23rd, 2011 - 11:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Addis Ababa, May 23 (IANS) Signalling a subtle shift in India’s stance over the contentious Afghan reconciliation process, India Monday said it has no issues with it as long as the process did not involve power-sharing, resulting in a Taliban takeover, and the Taliban elements renounced terror.

“We have had former insurgents as chief ministers,” an Indian official accompanying Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Ethiopia said here. Manmohan Singh is here to attend the second India-Africa Forum Summit.

The officials said India did not mind the national reconciliation process in Afghanistan as long as the Taliban elements that were sought to be accommodated renounced violence, severed links with the Taliban and accepted the Afghan constitution. But they ruled out India accepting power sharing with Taliban.

These were the red lines drawn by India when it participated in the London conference and Kabul conference on Afghanistan last year.

“Around 2,000-odd Taliban operatives are being taken back into the mainstream. Local accommodations are also being made,” senior officials said while providing New Delhi’s assessment of the evolving Afghan situation following the killing of 26/11 terror mastermind Osama bin Laden.

Officials, however, ruled out India accepting any power-sharing deal with the Taliban. “By reconciliation, we don’t mean power-sharing. In 1987-89, during the Soviet times, it did not work,” they said.

“It is for the Afghans to decide. This is the reasonable way,” officials said.

Against the backdrop of bin Laden’s killing setting the stage for a phased pullout of US and Nato troops from Afghanistan, officials said it was not unduly worried about the so-called drawdown.

The drawdown will be partial, officials said and noted that in the first phase, only 30,000 troops are expected to be called back.

During his visit to Kabul May 12, Manmohan Singh said that India strongly supported reconciliation between the Afghan government and the Taliban. These remarks were interpreted by many as New Delhi’s reluctant acceptance of the process it had opposed earlier for fear of being marginalised after the departure of Nato forces.

“Afghanistan should be allowed to rebuild itself in the way the Afghan people want it to be,” Manmohan Singh had said.

He also announced another $500 million assistance for the violence-ravaged country, taking Indian assistance to $2 billion, and underlined New Delhi’s unflinching resolve to continue with its reconstruction activities.

India also struck an optimistic note about the future of Afghanistan after the planned drawdown of Western troops and emphasised the need for a regional approach.

“There are strong elements in Afghanistan that oppose a Taliban takeover. There are many more elements of hope,” officials said.

While advocating a regional approach, India, however, ruled out a revival of the Northern Alliance that ousted the then Taliban regime in 2001. “It’s not the same Afghanistan as it was in 2001. History does not repeat itself,” officials said.

“There is a place for a regional initiative. It has to include everyone in the region. We are even ready to talk to Pakistan,” they said.

Indian officials also sounded optimistic about the prospects of economic revival of Afghanistan and encouraged Indian companies to invest in that country, but cautioned that they should adopt a consortium route to share the risks.

“The higher the risk, the greater the benefit,” they said.

Alluding to the precarious security situation in Afghanistan, Indian officials said New Delhi was alert to the possibility of terror attacks targeting its facilities in Afghanistan. “We have always been under threat. The primary threat comes from those who attacked us in Kabul,” the sources said.

(Manish Chand can be contacted at manish.c@ians.in)

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