JAIPUR, January 26: India should be clear about its role in Afghanistan and do whatever it can to encourage that the Taliban shun violent extremism and become mainstream, former national security adviser Shivshankar Menon has said.
India has been a key stakeholder in the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan and has committed aid worth $3 billion to the war-ravaged country.
New Delhi sent two former diplomats in “non-official” capacity to a conference on the Afghan peace process in Moscow in November which was attended by a high-level Taliban delegation. The conference organised by Russia was attended by representatives of Afghanistan as well as from several other countries, including the US, Pakistan and China.
India has been maintaining a policy of not engaging with the Taliban and pressing for an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace initiative to bring peace and stability in the war-torn country.
“India should do whatever it can to encourage that the Taliban become mainstream, that they give up extremist ideas and stop treating women the way they do, but how it is done and how it will shape up, that is not for us to say. We should be clear in what our role is. About talking to the Taliban or to anyone, it is the job of intelligence agencies,” Menon said at the Jaipur Literature Festival.
The top diplomat, who served as India’s ambassador to China, foreign secretary and the national security advisor, said the threat of extremism emanating from Afghanistan was exaggerated in India.
“Indians tend to exaggerate this threat of extremism from Afghanistan. I have never known a terrorist from Afghanistan in the last forty years. This is actually Pakistani terrorism and let us not make any mistake about that,” he said at a discussion here in which Pakistan’s former envoy to the US, Husain Haqqani, and Nepali author Manjushree Thapa also participated.
Haqqani said the people of Balochistan, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa deserved the support of democratic forces for their rights.
“I re-imagine Pakistan in which the Sindhis, Balochs, Pashtuns, Punjabis and the people of Gilgit and Balochistan have rights according to the autonomic groundings of a federal State. Then, I think Pakistan can succeed . As far as the people of Balochistan and Sindh and Pakhtunkhwa are concerned, they do deserve the support of all the democratic forces from across the world for their democratic rights,” he said. Haqqani said his role was to say what many Pakistanis have become afraid of saying.
Terming the current bilateral relationship between India and Nepal as “emotional and touchy”, Thapa said there was a “very strong anti-India sentiment” in Nepal because of New Delhi’s “mishandling” of the Constitution-drafting process in the Himalayan nation.
“It is confusing for Nepal when India which had been its model for how to become a democratic federalised secular nation starts saffronising and supporting majoritarian religion over other religions. Because of India’s mishandling of the Constitution drafting process, there is a very strong anti-India sentiment in Nepal right now which is resisting the saffronising and the attempt to bring back monarchy and the Hindu state,” she said.
The ties between India and Nepal deteriorated in 2015 when Kathmandu put out its draft Constitution that seemed to give extensive political privileges to the ruling hill tribes than to the Madhesis, mostly of Indian-origin.
The Madhesis launched a violent agitation, blocked Indo-Nepal border demanding more representation in Parliament and redrawing of provincial boundaries. The economic blockade severely affected Nepal, its economy and its ties with India. (Agencies)