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Afghanistan invites India to join 6+1 group

Afghanistan has invited India to join a new regional consultative mechanism to weigh in on the critical challenges facing the war-torn country. The new body, a 6+1 group, will include India, Pakistan, Iran, Russia, the US and China in addition to Afghanistan.

Afghan national security adviser Hanif Atmar announced the new group to foreign envoys in Kabul earlier this week. The new group may not be an alternative to the “quadrilateral” because that is dominated by the US and Pakistan and buttressed by China aimed at pushing a reconciliation between Taliban and Kabul.

The new grouping somewhat mirrors the special envoys’ club, International Contact Group (ICG). Since Afghanistan is taking the lead in the new mechanism, it is expected that it will have a greater say in the group. Among the three new members, Iran had already asked to be part of the quadrilateral, but neither Pakistan nor the US was willing. Russia’s presence is likely to irritate the US which believes the former is inserting itself in conflicts to stay relevant globally. Sources said there was some thought of working out a new “quadrilateral” which would include India, Iran and Russia. But this would evoke memories of the supporters of the erstwhile Northern Alliance, and would pit India and the US at odds. Therefore, in the interest of transparency, the group is now a 6+1format.

The quadrilateral met yet again in Kabul on Tuesday, but the prospects of a reconciliation with Taliban in the near future are slim, though the US and Pakistan are pushing it.

At a discussion on Tuesday between four former Indian ambassadors to Afghanistan – Vivek Katju, Rakesh Sood, Jayant Prasad and Amar Sinha – organised by the Ananta Aspen Centre, the envoys expressed apprehension that the Taliban’s resurgence in Afghanistan was virulent and spreading far beyond the south and south-east of the country supported by Pakistan.

There have been some questions regarding the fate of Mullah Mansour, who was appointed Taliban chief after the revelation of Mullah Omar’s death. But the Indian envoys agreed that Mansour’s campaigns in Afghanistan were being controlled and calibrated by Pakistan. Katju said, “We have to understand that Pakistan wants to curtail India’s presence in Afghanistan.” (Times of India)

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