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India has no option but to wait and watch: Ex-diplomats on Afghanistan

The former diplomats say India should avoid knee-jerk reaction

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With Pakistan's intelligence chief dashing to Afghanistan amidst efforts by the Taliban to finalise a government, former Indian diplomats on Sunday said the situation in the war-torn country was still in a "flux" and India has no other option but to wait and watch, while avoiding any "knee-jerk reaction''.

Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General (DG) Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed rushed to Kabul on an unannounced visit.

Hameed's visit to Afghanistan comes as pressure is mounting on the Taliban to form an inclusive government acceptable to the international community.

Anil Wadhwa, who served as Secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affairs before retiring in 2017, said India should avoid any knee-jerk reaction to the developments in Afghanistan and follow a wait and watch policy.

"India should avoid a knee-jerk reaction because it remains to be seen what kind of government is formed by the Taliban, whether it is an inclusive government or not. No knee jerk reaction (India should), just wait and see how the situation emerges," Wadhwa told PTI.

On the ISI chief's visit to Kabul, he said the influence of the ISI on the Taliban, especially the Haqqanis, is well known and so they would like to have that influence in the new government.

Asked if India should spell out its expectations from the new government, Wadhwa said this needs to be conveyed whenever there is an engagement with the Taliban representatives in Doha.

He added that India, in all likelihood, has already conveyed to the Talibani side that Afghanistan's soil should not be used for anti-India activities.

T C A Raghavan, who was India's High Commissioner to Pakistan from June 2013-December 2015, also echoed similar views and said the situation in Afghanistan was still in a flux and India should adopt a wait and watch approach.

"In my view the situation in Afghanistan is still in a flux, so we should not end up in a situation where we are commenting on our own analysis. Because the Pakistan ISI chief is there, it is easy to start commenting on our own impression that he is forming the government," he told PTI.

"Situation (in Afghanistan) is in a flux and we should await developments. The fact that Pakistanis have a certain position in Afghanistan today is undeniable," Raghavan said.

Asked if India should spell out its expectations of a government in Afghanistan and set out its preconditions for recognising the regime there, he said, "I don't think we are at a stage where we make our objectives into preconditions."

Rakesh Sood, a former Ambassador of India to Afghanistan, said, "I think we have no choice but to wait and watch. I don't think we have any other option."

"The situation may be in a flux but I don't think India is that significant. If the DG ISI has to go there to sort out matters, it is quite clear as to what the situation is. He has not gone there to exchange views about the weather," Sood said.

G Parthasarathy, who has been India's envoy in several countries including Pakistan, said India should not rush into anything and avoid any knee-jerk reaction to the developments in Afghanistan.

"Having dealt with Pakistan and lived there for seven years, I would have been surprised if the Pakistanis did not do what they were doing. It is only sections of Indians that are taken for a ride about Pakistan," he said in reference to the ISI chief's visit.

Cautioning against the China-Pakistan alliance, Parthasarathy said, "We will go wrong as long as we underestimate the dangers posed by the China-Pakistan alliance. Pakistan by itself is no threat, it becomes problematic when it acts in alliance with China."

On what should be India's approach, the former diplomat told PTI that India should not rush into anything, take time and see the direction in which things are moving as Afghanistan's internal politics will shape the developments.

"There are groups like the Haqqani network which are agents of the ISI because the Haqqani family lives in Pakistan. Let us see how it plays out. No need for us to rush into anything. The sensible Afghans have told us that they appreciate Indian assistance," he said, adding that India has done the right thing till now.

K C Singh, who has served as India's envoy to the UAE and Iran, said the fact that the formation of the Taliban government has been delayed indicates a struggle between the more moderate elements led by Mullah Barader and the Haqqanis fronting for Pakistan and its army.

"Most countries are waiting and watching but also exerting pressure on the Taliban. India should take up a public position on what kind of inclusive government it expects, pending which it would not recognise the Taliban government," he told PTI.

ISI DG Hameed's visit to Afghanistan is the first high-level visit of any Pakistani official to Afghanistan since the Taliban took over of Kabul on August 15.

Since then, the Taliban have been trying to form a government but so far have held back the announcement.

The Taliban had postponed the formation of a new government in Afghanistan for this week, as the insurgent group struggles to give shape to a broad-based and inclusive administration acceptable to the international community. 

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