Saturday, September 26, 2020

Indian Press on Doha, Kabul and Indian American: New Age Islam's Selection, 26 September 2020

 By New Age Islam Edit Bureau

26 September 2020


• The Doha-Kabul Journey As A Road To Nowhere

By D. Suba Chandran

• It Is Silly to Link the Anti-CAA Protests To the Subsequent Riots of February

By Salman Khurshid

• The Issues That Matter To Indian-Americans

By Yashwant Raj


The Doha-Kabul Journey As A Road To Nowhere

By D. Suba Chandran

September 26, 2020

There is an element of naiveté among those who feel the Taliban will find middle ground with the Afghan government

Finally, after numerous false starts, the representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban could meet in Doha recently. It was a tough road from Kabul to Doha for all three actors involved — the Afghan government, the Taliban, and, most importantly, the United States. Now, that they have met in Doha, the road back to Kabul will be more challenging, given the inherent differences on the Afghan endgame among these three actors.

Some Red Flags

First, as one could observe from the statements made by Abdullah Abdullah (chairperson of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation and overseeing the government’s peace efforts) and Mullah Ghani Baradar (the Taliban’s deputy leader), their endgame in Afghanistan appears substantially different, and even contradictory. Consider the following. Abdullah Abdullah was referring to an Afghanistan with democracy as the basis, with liberal values and equal rights for everyone, including the minorities and women. Mullah Baradar’s position is more straightforward: an Islamic emirate in Afghanistan. Keeping the theological and theoretical assumptions of a democracy and an emirate away, do these two representatives refer to something that means the same Afghan endgame? Are there at least complementarities in what each wants to achieve, and how they see the future of Afghanistan? Unfortunately, given history, the Taliban’s version of an Islamic emirate will be in direct contradiction to what the Afghan government wants in terms of democracy, human rights and equal rights for women and minorities. Striking a middle ground may be difficult, even impossible. Furthermore, this would be a deal-breaker.img

Exit America

Second, how involved will the U.S. be once intra-Afghan talks take shape? The U.S. endgame in Afghanistan is not aimed at a political settlement in and for Kabul. Instead, the U.S. looks at an exit from Afghanistan, as early as possible, preferably before the forthcoming U.S. presidential elections. The U.S. should remain committed to the intra-Afghan process and ensure both sides, especially the Taliban, sticks to the political plot.

Unfortunately, the U.S. will not. U.S. President Donald Trump will declare an American victory in Afghanistan in the next few weeks. He would state the following as the American achievements: The al-Qaeda in Afghanistan is neutralised, the Taliban has severed its relationship with all external actors, the killing of Osama bin Laden, elections and democracy in Afghanistan, and, finally, an intra-Afghan dialogue. Topmost on his achievement list would be the job done in Afghanistan, announcing the withdrawal of all American troops, before Christmas or the New Year. After West Asia, Afghanistan would be Mr. Trump’s major achievement.

Third, the American exit from Afghanistan – physically and politically, would rupture the intra-Afghan dialogue process. The Afghan government has not only been reluctant from the beginning to engage with the Taliban but is also divided within in terms of how it sees the Taliban. While leaders like Abdullah Abdullah and Amrullah Saleh (Afghanistan Vice-President) are on the extreme side in terms of how they would loathe sharing power with the Taliban, others including President Ashraf Ghani would have reservations. The Afghan leadership was pressurised by the U.S. and even threatened with an aid cut, to get on to the road to Doha. The Loya Jirga that the Afghan government organised recently on the subject was under American pressure, to create a consensus in starting a dialogue with the Taliban. This is what the Afghan Peace Council has been tasked to and has been grappling with — to find an answer and a middle ground.

Outside the Afghan government, there reservations among multiple sections – the minorities and women. The last few years and elections have created certain institutions of democracy and liberal notions that make many Afghans look at their future beyond the tribal and religious orders. For them, negotiating with the Taliban and reaching a middle ground will be a tough assignment.

The Taliban Spells Violence

Fourth, what does the Taliban want? Is it looking forward to sharing power in Kabul and taking part in an electoral process? Is it looking forward to working with the Afghan institutions and abiding by the legislation and parliamentary norms? Is it looking at creating an equal and egalitarian society in Afghanistan?

There is an element of naiveté among those who believe that the Taliban is transformed and will find middle ground with the Afghan government. For the Taliban, it would be nothing short of an Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Period.

Fifth, the Taliban has been waiting for the last two decades for international troops to leave. It would wait for a few more months to see the last American soldier exit Afghanistan. Then, it would return to what it knows the best — violence. Aimed at three actors (the international troops, the Afghan government and the Afghan people), the Taliban has been employing violence as the primary strategy to achieve what it has wanted.

Despite the February 2020 agreement with the U.S. in Doha, the Taliban never stopped from using violence. Available data would suggest that there has been no let-up in violence since February 2020, and in the process, the Taliban has got what it has wanted: the release of all Taliban prisoners. Once the Americans leave, it would go back to the strategy that has yielded maximum dividends — violence. As one could observe during the last week, violence continues today, even during the post-Doha meeting between the two actors. Also, until now, it has not agreed to a ceasefire; it will not in the near future.

The Regional Game

Sixth, the return of the regional great game. Pakistan, Iran, China, Russia and India all have stakes in Afghanistan, and have made it clear through the multiple dialogues on Afghanistan (bilateral, trilateral and quadrilateral). As long as American troops and interests remain in Afghanistan, their role would remain limited. Now, one should wait and watch on how the regional great game in Afghanistan is played, and how it has shaped the Afghan endgame.

The last point would be how history would judge the American intervention in Afghanistan in the last two decades. Is the U.S. leaving Afghanistan in 2020 any better than how it saw it when it invaded the country in 2001? Or has it made the situation worse?

To conclude, if the road from Kabul to Doha was tough, the return would be even tougher and more complicated. It is also possible that the Doha-Kabul journey could be a road to nowhere.


D. Suba Chandran is Professor and Dean, School of Conflict and Security Studies, and Head, Conflict Resolution and Peace Research Programme and Science Diplomacy Programme, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bengaluru


It Is Silly to Link the Anti-CAA Protests To the Subsequent Riots of February

By Salman Khurshid

September 26, 2020

The protests at Shaheen Bagh and Jamia Millia Islamia, not to mention the protests inspired by them across the country against the CAA-NRC-NPR, were a remarkable break from the past and a repudiation of stereotypes. Virtually leaderless masses of students and women took to the streets to register their presence and participation in Indian democracy.

Of course, the usual suspects, activists and would-be leaders from fringe movements, tried to muscle in whilst others put up barriers for the leaders and parties, with whom they had real or imagined scores to settle.

The crowds had Jamaat-e-Islami supporters who kept secularists away, ultra-left Marxists who queried the invites to former ministers of the Congress, new-age Dalit cause converts who did not wish to cede space to established parties, local musclemen and land grabbers who wanted to use the movement to create safe havens, genteel social activists constantly wary of the potential for confrontation and local politicians trying to elbow each other out. With the filing of the charge-sheets, there is apprehension that fifth columnists had infiltrated the unique movement from the beginning. With friends like these, who needs enemies? When I tried to persuade the organisers at Jamia to invite some former ministers, I was told that it had been difficult enough to accept my presence.

It was COVID-19 and the responsible response to the administration’s requests that brought the protests to a pause, hopefully not to an end. It certainly was not the police and government’s strong-arm tactics that made the 24×7 protests fold up. It is silly to link the protests to the subsequent riots of February, which cannot be de-linked from the divisive politics pursued by the ruling establishment at the Centre. What might be made of the ambivalent and slippery politics of the AAP, who gathered the reluctant vote of the protesters, is a million-dollar question.

Interestingly, the 17,500-page charge-sheet filed in FIR 59/2020 has S161 (not admissible) and S164 statements mentioning the names of several speakers, including mine. The statements indicate that the speakers used “provocative language and motivated people to join the protests”. Putting diverse people together in a statement as though they had a collective or corporate personality and to bind all with one statement is an interesting sleight of hand. Or perhaps it is just plain laziness in an investigation. But the larger issue is that the protests are sought to be perceived as the precursors of the unfortunate riots.

We know that riots happen for a variety of local reasons and the prevailing atmosphere has a great deal to do with it. The riots that took place in northeast Delhi have left many questions unanswered. It is not surprising that former Supreme Court judges and a celebrated former police chief have expressed their disquiet about the investigation.

The Mumbai Police blotted its copybook during the 1992-93 riots in the city and the Delhi Police has followed suit in 2020. Assiduously built relationships between the local police and the populace, without which policing is impossible, have been fed to the vultures who feed upon the carcass of a divided society. The damage that will be done to a generation of young Indians will be bad enough, but the police will not escape the damage that could take generations to repair.

There is much history to take lessons from. When the curtains come down on this era of discontent, the downstream perpetrators of injustice will not even be remembered as villains — a sobriquet reserved for the high and mighty who fall from grace.

The right to protest peacefully will be illusory if every such gathering is declared unlawful as a matter of routine. Harsh words against a government that more than deserves them being labelled as sedition will virtually negate Article 19 and free speech. Curiously, many persons who support the action against CAA protestors are lining up to bemoan the Supreme Court showing prima facie concern about the content of the Sudarshan TV tapes on the UPSC selection of candidates coached by Jamia and other organisations. One man’s meat is another man’s poison.

While the government may be congratulating itself for destroying the spontaneous voice of the people (according to them, only some people), there are two explanations for its position: It is either fear of vox populi or a perverse ideological posture on equality. Perhaps it is a bit of both. But from the point of view of democracy, one wonders what happens to spontaneous movements like the outburst of young people in the heart of Delhi after the December 2012 rape and murder and then the Shaheen Baghs across India? Are they destined to plant the flag of protest, leave their footprints on the sands of time, and move on for another generation to consolidate? The government will soon discover if the CAA protests were designed and executed by the conspirators mentioned in the charge-sheets, in which case the streets and barricades will not be occupied again. On the other hand, if they were organic and spontaneous, they will spring up again. The movement would have learnt costly lessons, but one wonders if the government did so too. From the contents of the charge-sheet, it appears that far from learning, the government continues to celebrate ignorance, persecution and falsehood.


Salman Khurshid is a senior Congress leader and a former Union minister.


The Issues That Matter To Indian-Americans

By Yashwant Raj

Sep 25, 2020

United States (US) President Donald Trump and Democratic contender Joe Biden’s campaigns have pitched their candidates as the best bet for US-India relations to court Indian-Americans, who are expected to play an outsized role in what promises to be a close presidential election. Bilateral relations with India have become an issue in the US elections for the first time.

Biden has promised that relations with India will get “high priority” and has bashed India’s regional adversaries — China and Pakistan — to burnish his credentials as the better custodian of ties with New Delhi.

The Trump campaign has released a video of clips spliced together from the “Howdy Modi” and “Namaste Trump” events touting close ties between the two leaders. And it has also cited the administration’s position on the Kashmir status change and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) as internal matters in sharp contrast to the Biden campaign’s criticism of India on these issues.

A group of Indian-Americans pressed Biden at a fund-raiser to moderate his position on these issues and dial up the campaign’s pitch to Hindus in a bid to staunch the flow of the community’s support towards Trump. They had the candidate’s attention they believed, and came away with a distinct impression that one of them would get a follow-up call from the campaign.

Certifiably reliable election data for the community doesn’t go far back enough to evaluate its voting behaviour relative to the highs and lows in the relationship. But did Bill Clinton, a Democrat, drive them towards the Republican Party when he slapped multiple sanctions on India for the Pokhran-II nuclear tests in 1998, clearly the lowest point in bilateral ties in recent decades?

Or, did George W Bush, a Republican, trigger a rush of Indian-Americans to the party with the civil nuclear deal in 2008, which remains an unparalleled high-point of the relationship? Not really. In a 2008 pre-poll survey by AAPI Data, which has consistently polled the community since then with other Asian-Americans, Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee, led his Republican rival John McCain 53% to 13%, among Indian-Americans; 33% were undecided.

Its latest poll tells a most consequential story, but one that has received little attention: Indian-Americans don’t actually care much about US policy for South Asia.

Education was listed by 94% of Indian-American voters as extremely important or very important, followed by jobs and the economy (92% ), health care (92%), environment (88%), racial discrimination (84%), policing reforms (84%), national security (84%), and immigration (80%).

US foreign policy in Asia was marked way, way down in comparison (66%).

It is unclear if “US foreign policy in Asia” meant and covered US relations with India specifically. But as Milan Vaishnav, an Indian-American expert on India-US relations at Carnegie, said, “India and US-India ties might matter on the margins, but we don’t have evidence it is a determining factor yet.”



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