DESPITE facing some setbacks, it is heartening to see that Russia is taking forward the Afghan peace initiative it started a couple of years ago. Those not happy with the initiative might call it muddling the US’s initiative yet in our view the regional powers including Russia and China have genuine stakes and concerns regarding Afghan peace, stability and just like Pakistan they need to play greater role to put an end to this decades long conflict — sufferers of which are only ordinary Afghan people.
Russia’s foreign ministry in a statement on Saturday confirmed the multilateral Afghan peace talks that are to be held on Nov 09. The good news is that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani this time has agreed to send a group of senior politicians to peace talks where a delegation representing the Taliban would also be present. In fact these talks were earlier scheduled to take place in August but were postponed after Ghani rejected the invitation possibly under the US pressure. Anyway these are very important talks as it is first time that a delegation from the Taliban’s political office in Doha will also attend such a high level international meeting. Others who have been invited to attend the process are Pakistan, China, Iran, India, China and the United States. It is yet to be seen whether the US sends its representatives to the talks or not but if Washington is really interested in peace and stability of Afghanistan as it has shown in some of its recent moves including talks with the Taliban in Doha, it should support any initiative that helps in achieving the ultimate objective, no matter which country leads it.
As for other countries, we understand they will be more forthcoming. Pakistan has not only supported any Afghan peace initiative but also tried to facilitate it. Our delegation was also part of Russian peace talks that were held in December 2016 and February 2017. Besides, in recent years one has seen frequent exchanges between both Pakistan and Russia especially at the level of foreign ministers in which both the sides expressed commonality of views on the Afghan situation. After remaining relatively inactive in Afghanistan since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001, when the arrival of NATO troops had complicated a civil war already under way, Moscow’s increasingly active role in recent years to end the Afghan conflict may be attributed to genuine anxieties about the emergence of ISIS. Therefore we see the Russian peace initiative as a step in the right direction, one that can contribute positively provided other stakeholders also show same kind of sincerity and commitment while rising above any ego. The US engagement is essential to the success of Afghan reconciliation efforts, as would be Russia’s and China’s involvement. Similarly Pakistan has an important role. All the stakeholders now need to join hands firmly to take the process to some positive logical conclusion.