Talking to Taliban

UN Sanctions

During the High Peace Council's visit to Pakistan, the two sides agreed to press the international community to remove potential Taliban negotiators from the UN sanctions list. The sanctions include a travel ban, arms embargo and assets freeze.

According to media reports, Washington, Kabul and Islamabad have already discussed a potential list of about 24 such names. Consultations are apparently on in New York to get the UNSC to act in the near future. In early 2010, some Taliban figures were removed from UN sanctions at the behest of the US, which decided to open a dialogue with the Taliban. The attempt faltered amidst differences on the release of some key Taliban prisoners from the US detention centre in Guantanamo Bay.

Amidst expectations that US President Barack Obama is determined to revive talks with the Taliban, Pakistan is asking Washington to show its good faith with an early gesture on the prisoners' issue.

While the US is eager to send positive signals to the Taliban, it is continuing to mount pressure on the Haqqani network, which enjoys the patronage of the ISI and the Pakistan army and is the main perpetrator of violence in Afghanistan.

Last September, the US designated the Haqqani network as a foreign terrorist organisation. Earlier this month, the UN followed through by adding it to the UN sanctions list. This approach is meant to clearly differentiate between potential reconcilable and irreconcilable elements among the Afghan militant groups.

Indian Policy

With both Washington and Kabul eager to engage the Taliban, the time has come for India to discard the old mantra that there is no such thing as "good Taliban". Instead, India must formally signal its readiness to engage the Taliban.

To be sure, the Taliban has dismissed the latest Pakistani prisoner release as irrelevant. It refuses to recognise the Afghan government as legitimate and to negotiate with it. The Taliban says it is open to talks with Washington, but there is no betting they will succeed.

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