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The US drawdown in Afghanistan could be a major concern for India

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New Delhi, Dec 22: India is watching closely as the United States orders an American drawdown in Afghanistan. US President Donald Trump is bringing home around 15,000 troops over the next 60 days.

US President Donald Trump

India is watching with concern these developments as this move could well open the doors for the Taliban to get more powerful in the region, where India has a great presence.

Why India should be wary of Pakistan brokering peace talks on Afghanistan with the US

This development comes in the backdrop of Pakistan going out of its way to broker a political truce in war torn Afghanistan. India had in fact conveyed its concerns to the United States about the role Pakistan is playing.

Donald Trump said, "getting out of Syria was no surprise. I've been campaigning on it for years, and six months ago, when I very publicly wanted to do it, I agreed to stay longer. Russia, Iran, Syria & other are the local enemy of ISIS. We were doing [their] work. Time to come home & rebuild," he explained over Twitter, as even Republican lawmakers and many conservative talking heads - but for a few isolationists-excoriated him.

"Does the USA want to be the Policeman of the Middle East, getting NOTHING but spending precious lives and trillions of dollars protecting others who, in almost all cases, do not appreciate what we are doing? Do we want to be there forever," he also said.

Concerned:

The developments come in the wake of a shift in India's Afghanistan policy, from a no engagement with militants to some form of engagement. On Tuesday, the two day talks between US special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, and a Taliban delegation ended in Abu Dhabi. The meeting was also attended by officials from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Following the meeting, Khalilzad flew directly from the UAE to Pakistan to brief the army chief, General Qamar Bajwa. Following this he flew to Kabul, where he briefed President Ashraf Ghani.

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India however feels that Pakistan's attempt to shape the peace talks is to its advantage. It is also a bid to position itself better in Afghanistan and also counter India's presence in the country, top officials from New Delhi told OneIndia.

Think Tank Global Security Review in its most recent paper says that the ISI supports and aids terror including the Haqqani Network and Afghan Taliban. Regional expert Alexandra Gilliard said that the Pakistan government helped the US create a dialogue with the Taliban and took all credit, after all, the Afghan Taliban is homegrown.

India a portioned enemy:

Further it was also pointed out that Pakistan considers India as its partitioned enemy and it is very much active in Kashmir. Gilliard explained that in Afghanistan the primary goal of Pakistan is to prevent India from gaining ground. As the Taliban eyes for more control, the ISI has provided it with military aid to ensure that Afghanistan remains unstable.

Indian officials say that its primary concern about Pakistan brokering the peace talks would ensure that the Taliban gains more control in Afghanistan. If this were to happen then the Pakistan gains a natural ally in Afghanistan.

Pakistan feels that India has used its improved relationship with the United States to increase its presence in Afghanistan. Pakistan would do anything to end this and hence has been going out of its way to ensure that the peace talks succeed.

Indian officials say that it is not the end of the road. The US does recognise India as a strategic player in Afghanistan. Moreover the US would not withdraw from Afghanistan anytime soon as it would not want to leave in a hurry and let terrorists take control of the country.

Talks with Russia:

India on the other hand has also been working closely with Russia on the issue. Russian President Vladimir Putin's special envoy Zamir Kabulov on Thursday held talks with Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale and other officials of the External Affairs Ministry on ways to bring peace and stability in war-ravaged Afghanistan.

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External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said both sides reiterated their support for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned inclusive peace and reconciliation process.

In the meetings, the Russian side briefed on their efforts to support Afghan peace process through Moscow format of talks. Kumar said it was agreed to maintain regular bilateral consultations and coordination including in the context of international fora with the shared objective to promote peace, security, stability, unity and prosperity in Afghanistan.

"It was agreed to hold the next round of consultations in Moscow in 2019," he said.

Kabulov held delegation-level talks with Joint Secretary (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran division) Deepak Mittal. He later met Gokhale. India has been actively involved in reconstruction activities in Afghanistan.

Last month, India attended in a "non-official" capacity a conference under Moscow format of talks which was hosted by Russia and participated by the Taliban as well as representatives from several countries including Pakistan, China and Iran.

India made it clear that its participation was in sync with its Afghan policy and asserted that attending the meeting was not talking to the Taliban at all.

New Delhi's consistent policy has been that the peace talks should be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, and Afghan-controlled and with participation of the government of Afghanistan.

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