Russia hosted a two-day conference in Moscow of senior Afghan political figures and Taliban representatives (see Review, 1/19). Though projected as a non-governmental meeting called by the Afghan diaspora in Russia and Central Europe, there was no doubt about Russian government backing for it – the final document showed diplomatic drafting expertise and Russian Presidential envoy for Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, was close at hand to claim credit and to declare that the meeting had shown that US withdrawal will not leave a vacuum: all Afghans, including the Taliban, would reach a peace agreement and then fight ISIS together “in an Afghan manner”.

The attendance from Afghan politics included most strands of the opposition:  former president Hamid Karzai, former vice president Yunus Qanuni, former NSA (and Presidential hopeful) Hanif Atmar and others like Atta Mohammad Noor, Mohammad Ismail Khan, and Sayed Gailani.

The nine-point agenda they adopted is unexceptionable, though many elements have never been implemented in Afghan history: respect for the principles of Islam in all parts of the system … a powerful centralised government with all ethnicities having a role in it … protecting national sovereignty and promoting social justice … keeping Afghanistan neutral in all regional and international conflicts … protection of social, economic, political and educational rights of Afghan women in line with Islamic principles .. freedom of speech in line with Islamic principles, etc.

In sum, the meeting was probably intended to demonstrate that Russia still has some cards to play in the Afghan political process, and allowed the Taliban to claim further legitimacy as a dialogue partner in the process.  


February 28, 2019

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About the Author

Ambassador PS Raghavan

Former Ambassador of India to Russia; Convener, National Security Advisory Board

Born in 1955, Ambassador Raghavan holds a B.Sc. (Honours) degree in Physics and a B.E. in Electronics & Communications Engineering. He joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1979. From 1979 to 2000, he had diplomatic assignments in USSR, Poland, United Kingdom, Vietnam and South Africa, interspersed with assignments in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in New Delhi. From 2000 to 2004, he was Joint Secretary in the Indian Prime Minister's Office dealing with Foreign Affairs, Nuclear Energy, Space, Defence and National Security. Thereafter, he was Ambassador of India to Czech Republic (2004 - 2007) and to Ireland (2007 - 2011).

He was Chief Coordinator of the BRICS Summit in New Delhi (March 2012) and Special Envoy of the Government of India to Sudan and South Sudan (2012-13). Ambassador Raghavan conceptualized and piloted the creation of the Development Partnership Administration (DPA) in MEA, which implements and monitors India’s economic partnership programs in developing countries, with an annual budget of $1-1.5 billion. He headed DPA in 2012-13. From March 2013 to January 2014, he oversaw the functioning of the Administration, Security, Information Technology and other related Divisions of MEA. Since October 2013, he was also Secretary [Economic Relations] in MEA, steering India’s bilateral and multilateral external economic engagement. Ambassador Raghavan retired from the Indian Foreign Service in January 2016, after serving from 2014 as Ambassador of India to Russia. Since September 2016, he is Convenor of the National Security Advisory Board of the Government of India.

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