As the Taliban is stepping up its grip and offensive in Afghanistan all stakeholders and regional power have again come on the table to chalk peaceful and conducive options for Afghanistan but what is a noticeable development is that India is not included or invited for participating in these talks for the second time in the row.
Analyzing the Russian Factor
Moscow always had a vested interest in Afghanistan is something that is not new it has been talked since ages. Countering the US’ influence in Afghanistan was one of the top priorities in Moscow’s security calculus but now since the US has started to withdraw and this has created a big security vacuum in Kabul. Now, stakeholders especially Pakistan and China are attempting to fill this vacuum with their vested strategic interests in the region. On one end US sees the present situation of Afghanistan from lenses of threat on the other hand Russia assess the situation in some other way, Moscow holds the view that US is still making its attempt to re-establish their influence in Afghan region and believes that Asraf Ghani is working under the influence of US and US is making every possible attempt to strengthen the position of Kabul against the Taliban. Moreover, Moscow’s threat assessment on Taliban is limited to the Central Asian Region and there is a limited sense and lacks holistic view in Moscow’s assessment. There are other various reasons for the emergence of the Russian factor in Kabul:
A- Moscow wants to build a Russia-China Axis Against US and since China is a strategic necessity for Russia in terms of economic and trade relations there are high chances that Russia want to accommodate China’s economic and trade aspirations in Afghanistan to increase or strengthen the economic regionalism between Russia and China Axis. Moscow leaning towards China is not something new earlier this year Moscow has raised concerns over the Indo-Pacific Strategy which is seen as a strategy to counter China in the maritime domain and labeled it as American Construct also urged New Delhi to stay away from such adventures.
B- Preventing US from taking the stage and attempting to demolish any American constructed approach towards Afghanistan similar to countering developments in Indo-Pacific Region by becoming vocal at the international forum and influencing US strategic partners not to participate in such adventures.
C- Earlier, Moscow started an infamous program US which is known as the Bounty Programme where Russia was alleged of giving bounties to the Taliban on killing US troops. This program indicates the possibilities of a Moscow connection with some sects of Taliban and due to this connect there are speculations and possibilities that Moscow is not giving out a holistic threat assessment against the Taliban.
Therefore, to assert strategic position and interests and counter the US’s attempt to regain influence in Afghanistan the emergence and growth of the Russian factor seem to be imminent in the coming future.
New Delhi’s Exclusion
This is for the second time that Moscow kept New Delhi out of the talks over Afghanistan and this certainly has not sent a positive signal to New Delhi. There are two reasons for New Delhi’s exclusion one can see this as a move to counter the US-India axis in Afganistan. As said, Moscow might be attempting to build Russia China Axis and the US and India are two major players who will obstruct the building Russia-China Axis and Pakistan’s stakes which are assisted by China. Moscow knows the fact very well that now Washington DC’s influence is decreasing and Washington DC can’t do much about the situation alone and requires New Delhi which is the only key player to provide assistance in the revival of the influence and strengthening the Ghani’s position and therefore it becomes important for Moscow to split or distance US-India axis on Afghanistan to get a strategic and diplomatic advantage over the developing situation and vacuum in Kabul. Second Moscow sees New Delhi’s role in a post-conflict situation which is again a non-digestible reason despite a key regional power in the Asian region and commitment towards the peace and development of Afghanistan’s people and security Russia has ignored such powerful credentials and important role in Afghanistan. However, Moscow is keeping New Delhi in touch and informing about the developments taking place in the meeting. Moscow also knows very well that they can’t afford frictions with New Delhi and that’s why Moscow is holding both the boats on one maintaining the strategic position and interests and on the other ensuring friction-free conduct and relations with one of its key partners and closest friend- New Delhi. But, Moscow’s hesitation in bringing New Delhi to the table is still not crystal cleared is it wheater Moscow wants to strategically fill the vacuum? or it assesses the situation from a different perspective?