The two-day visit by India’s National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon to Kabul last week took place in the immediate context of the lethal terrorist strike on Indians in Kabul on February 26, but it underscored the need for a comprehensive rethink on Delhi’s Afghanistan policy.
No doubt, India’s policy is at a crossroads. Assumptions behind the establishment thinking in Delhi in the recent years are fast withering amid the evolving situation in Afghanistan and India’s growing security concerns. On the one hand, Delhi was complacent about its influence in Kabul outstripping Islamabad’s and too confident that it rather than Pakistan was the “natural ally” to the US in the fight against terrorism.
The big question is whether Delhi is pragmatic enough to accept that new thinking has become necessary. First and foremost, it does not help if India ignores the nascent processes of Afghan national reconciliation. Delhi on its own is incapable of calibrating the Afghan reconciliation process and the Indian and US approaches diverge. Enduring peace can only come out of an inclusive political settlement in Kabul.
Delhi lost much time quibbling over the “good” and “bad” Taliban while the international community and regional players moved on. There was initially some uneasiness that the Afghan government led by President Hamid Karzai was seeking reconciliation with the insurgent groups.