NEW DELHI: As Afghanistan — pushed by the US and the UK — peddles a peace process roadmap which seeks to bring the Taliban into government, it is not just India that is raising red flags. Iran’s national security adviser ( NSA) Saeed Jalili, said it was a matter of concern that in over a decade of foreign military presence, there was no respite in terrorism in war-torn Afghanistan.
In India for talks with his counterpart,Shivshankar Menon, Jalili told a think-tank audience in a typically roundabout Iranian fashion that this was a consequence of “opportunistic” definitions of terrorism. “A former Pakistani head of state said terrorism was planned by America, executed by Pakistan and funded by the Arabs,” he said.
This was a thinly-veiled reference to the US support to the mujahideen in Afghanistan in the 1980s with Pakistan’s support. Reading between the lines, Jalili implied a similar fate awaited Afghanistan now. Whatever differences India may have with Iran over its nuclear programme, on this, New Delhi and Tehran will be on the same page.
India has been angry over the peace process roadmap announced by Afghanistan’s High Peace Council earlier this month, which appeared to go back to the old system of collaborating with Pakistan and trying to incentivize the Taliban to be a part of the new government in Kabulin the post-2014 setup. Indian officials reckon this roadmap is less ofAfghanistan’s making and more “inspired” by the US and the UK. Washington is trying to declare victory and get out, as the countdown draws near. Afghan president Hamid Karzai has been fairly realistic in his private assessments of Pakistan’s role and how the process might pan out. But publicly, he has been toeing the US line on Pakistan and Indians find this frustrating.
Jalili spelt out Iran’s bottom line on its forthcoming nuclear negotiations. “We will not accept fewer rights or more responsibilities than other signatories of the NPT,” he said, adding Iran had given a set of proposals to the P5+1 (to Russia, in fact). He said they were still waiting for a response from the West. In recent weeks, there have been signs that both sides might get back to the negotiating table. At the highest level, India has been using its good offices to help the process along, but it is not clear exactly what New Delhi’s role is. Jalili railed against what he said was a “selective approach to the nuclear rights of nations”.
There are questions about Iran’s Parchin reactor and IAEA’s access to that reactor. Iran has desisted thus far. However, with a new set of sanctions kicking in this week, Tehran is hurting. This is added to a number of internal political wrangling, sacking of the only woman cabinet minister, death of a blogger, while war games and the ever-present prospect of an increased conflict in Syria have added to the tensions all around.
Iran treats the Syrian conflict as a repeat of the Afghanistan exercise. “This is a new plot taking place in another part of the world,” he said, adding terrorists were moving into the Syrian conflict. He said Iran called for democracy as the only solution to the Syrian conflict. “That cannot be brought about by weapons or violence,” he said. But taking the argument further, Jalili said the same solution should be applicable in Bahrain as well. A tiny Sunni ruling class in Bahrain has got help from Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, even Pakistan, to crush protests by a Shia majority populace. Iran’s solution is not likely to win her any friends among the Gulf Arabs, who now openly count Tehran as a regional threat.
The Iran Project is not responsible for the content of quoted articles.