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Is Reintegration and Reconciliation a Way Forward in Afghanistan?

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  • December 10, 2010
    Fellows' Seminar

    Chair: Mr. Rana Banerji
    Discussants: Professor Anwar Alam and Prof. Gulshan Sachdeva


    The principle theme of the paper is that “the idea of national reconciliation and integration per se as a precursor to much desired stability in Afghanistan, however fragile it may be, cannot be denied”. The main conclusions of the paper are as follows:

    • With the level of violence at an all time high, the Afghan war is certainly peaking and entering into a new phase.
    • In the given circumstances, Kabul and the West are not in a position to lay down terms for negotiations with the top Taliban.
    • There is a general perception that growing demand for reconciliation with the Taliban in its current form will only work to the advantage of the Taliban and Pakistan. Any withdrawal of the Western troops at this time would almost certainly lead to a Taliban regime.
    • A top down approach emphasizing on direct negotiations is not likely to work in the current scenario partly because, 1) the top insurgent leadership is hostage or takes orders from the Pakistani establishment and 2) they believe that the West will exit soon and thus do not need to negotiate with Kabul or the West.
    • The peace process in Afghanistan at a larger scale may also be considered as a battle between neo – Islamic versus traditional Islamic ideals.

    External Discussant 1: Dr. Gulshan Sachdeva

    Dr. Gulshan Sachdeva highlighted the following points with respect to the presentation:

    • Many other issues like security, development, exit strategies, aid effectiveness etc. are all going on simultaneously in Afghanistan and need to be discussed, perhaps in a separate project or paper.
    • Most people will agree that some amount of dialogue and reconciliation is needed, be it in Afghanistan or any other country in conflict.
    • The question to be considered is: how the Reintegration and Reconciliation (R2) process is being discussed in Afghanistan; and what is the context? Furthermore, is R2 part of an exit strategy or the larger nation building process? Dr. Sachdeva mentioned that these were the poignant questions that could be considered in detail in a separate project, which would compliment this paper.
    • It was highlighted that the R2 is not a Kabul-led process, and was an initiative of the West. It was suggested that the R2 has been forced on Kabul by the West. This would make the operationalization of the R2 process extremely difficult. Furthermore, one needs to go beyond the statements of statesmen to see whether it is a Kabul-led process or not.
    • Dr. Sachdeva suggested that the paper could also discuss in some detail the question of whether India’s position on R2 is a tactical or a strategic shift, and whether there is any change in the Indian position and, if so, then why?

    External Discussant 2: Prof. Anwar Alam

    The following were the suggestions given by Prof. Anwar Alam:

    • Prof. Alam stated that clarity about the objective of the R2 process is needed. He suggested that the difference in the priority with respect to R2 among various countries ought to be considered. R2 has emerged in view of the failure of NATO to tame down Taliban and in the context of US exit strategy.
    • Prof. Alam stated that the author is right in observing that the peace process is linked to the state building process. But the author must elaborate what he means by state building process. Dr. Alam posed the question: what is the cultural imagination of state building process, i.e. governance centric state building process? Elaboration on this aspect was suggested for the paper.
    • In addition to the aforementioned points, Prof. Alam also emphasized on the need to explore the role of Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan in the R2 process in Afghanistan and how Iran and Saudi Arabia are playing games.

    Internal Discussant 1: Col. Ali Ahmed (retd.)

    • The military prong was not getting the desired results. Therefore one needed to consider and strengthen the political prong and the peace process; but the peace prong may not go anywhere due to the current form and nature of the conflict.
    • It was suggested that if the US domestic factors change, the West may have to leave soon, and without honour.
    • The capability of President Karzai to take care of the peace process was questioned. It was noted that the Karzai government can’t take care of Kabul governance which puts a question mark on its ability to handle the Peace Process. Additionally, if the peace process catches momentum, India will have to be on board too and India must use its goodwill during the peace process.

    Internal Discussant 2: Dr. Ashok Behuria:

    • There are other components in addition to the US and the Taliban to the peace process and R2 such as Pakistan, Iran, India, the US - Pakistan relations, and India – Pakistan relations.
    • Dr. Behuria stated that the Taliban would not come to the negotiation table when they are on the rise and the exit of US forces appears imminent.

    Floor discussion:

    The following points were made by the audience:

    • The R2 process will not succeed if Pakistan continues to use Taliban as a strategic asset.
    • The Taliban is not keen on supporting Afghan peace process as they are under no pressure to accept this. Furthermore, Taliban are an ideological party with specific goals which cannot be compromised.
    • India enjoys a tremendous amount of goodwill among the people of Afghanistan, but India is not capitalizing on its soft power.
    • It was suggested that the West wants to exit Afghanistan and hence the peace process has been initiated, therefore the Taliban and many Afghans consider the Kabul-led peace process to be a joke.