U.S.-Taliban agreement is like long-awaited ‘Pakeezah’ release, says Jaishankar

“Achievements of the last 18 years should not be lost,” he says.

Likening the U.S.-Taliban agreement in Doha to the long-awaited release of a film, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said India was “watching the space” closely to see that the gains of the last two decades were not lost.

“The agreement has been anticipated for so long; it is like the release of Pakeezah after watching lots of trailers,” Mr. Jaishankar said, referring to the 1972 Hindi film that took 15 years to complete. “Our message to the United States is that the achievements of the last 18 years should not be lost,” he added.

While India has raised issues over the future of democracy, human rights, women rights and other achievements in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban in 2001, the issues were not addressed in the agreement between the U.S. and Taliban signed by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on February 29, which provides a timetable for U.S. troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan by May 2021.

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Speaking at the Centre for Policy Research’s “Dialogue 2020”, in conversation with former Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran, Mr. Jaishankar also said that he believed the “real negotiations” would only begin now, a possible reference to the Intra-Afghan dialogue due to begin on March 10 this year, as well as a Pakistan-Afghanistan dialogue facilitated by the United States on securing their borders and ending terror safe havens.

“How cohesive are the various players, does the Taliban join the democratic set-up, or will the democratic set-up have to adjust to the Taliban…We are all watching this space,” he said.

India stopped short of welcoming the U.S.-Taliban and U.S.-Afghanistan agreements announced on Saturday, for which texts were widely distributed in the media. According to an MEA statement, India “noted that the entire political spectrum in Afghanistan…has welcomed the opportunity and hope for peace and stability generated by these agreements.”

In sharp contrast, India had welcomed and congratulated President Ghani on winning the recently held elections in Afghanistan. The U.S.-Taliban agreement, however, does not indicate what the future of the Ghani government will be, describing instead a “new post-settlement Islamic Afghanistan government”, which has also been noted with concern among experts in India.

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