Source: The Hitavada      Date: 11 Nov 2018 11:16:54

A GAME of geopolitical one-upmanship is on in the militancy-troubled land of Afghanistan in a bid to wrest global leadership, especially in the Asian region. The United States has remained an overbearing character in Afghanistan’s fight with the Taliban. Now, as talks of peace between Afghan leaders and Taliban representative float on the horizon, Russia has entered the theatre with an aim to don role of the central character. An interesting future awaits Afghanistan, where two world powers seek the cameo of a successful mediator and peacemaker.

Friday’s Moscow Meeting on Afghanistan, which saw a “non-official” participation from India and keen watch from the US Embassy, was Russia’s effort to bring the Taliban to the negotiation table and “build an inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue in order to advance the national reconciliation process”. While Moscow has termed the conference as a bid to create favourable conditions for the start of direct peace talks with the Taliban, the geopolitical game of competition just cannot be missed.

Russia’s move will rankle the United States most even as President Mr. Donald Trump is seeking an alternative to bring out his troops from the war-ravaged country but is still to find a respectable way out. Russian President Mr. Vladimir Putin has craftily entered the theatre as a harbinger of peace and steal the thunder out of the United States’ efforts to bring the Taliban to the negotiation table. As the two powers wrestle for the lead role, Afghanistan has found itself in a deep dilemma of picking a peace partner. Russia’s insistence on opening a new page in the history of Afghanistan is more than welcome in Kabul but the presence of United States troops would mean it has to carefully tread the path before entering into a concrete peace dialogue with the Taliban.

Taliban is banned in Russia but making a significant departure from its stand Moscow invited the outfit’s representatives to the meeting with Afghan officials. The group picture of participants in the conference with Russian Foreign Minister Mr. Sergey Lavrov tells a big story, especially to the United States, whose diplomat was dispatched to observe the discussions. The development will have an effect on the already straining ties between Washington and Moscow. It is a suave step by Mr. Putin to drum up support from China and Iran for the Afghan peace talks. Both the countries are engaged in fights of different proportions with the aggressive policies being adopted by Mr. Trump.

Afghanistan holds a key position in Mr. Trump’s foreign policy. He views the the engagement of US troops in the region for so long was an unnecessary show of ego by his predecessors that is costing the exchequer dearly. Now, in search of a way to withdraw Mr. Trump is warming up to the Taliban for negotiations. The Moscow conference has come as a new headache for the US policy-makers, who are already in a confused state.

All these developments as regards to Afghanistan are of significant importance for India. New Delhi has been a key partner in restructuring of Afghanistan which Kabul acknowledges without any hesitation. India’s wait-and-watch stand on the latest happenings suits its Afghan policy. It is not talking to Taliban but will be a part of any peace process which is Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled. This is the best stance on a tricky issue where two powers are bent on hogging the limelight.