India within the image

The American proposal to involve India in the Afghan peace process is an acknowledgment that New Delhi is a key stakeholder in the trouble-torn country. With Joe Biden at the helm, winds of change have started blowing in Af-Pak. Barely two years ago, the then US President Donald Trump had wondered derisively why PM Narendra Modi had funded a library in Kabul, of all places. The jibe had prompted the NDA government to list out development projects worth $3 billion that had been completed or were in progress in Afghanistan. The bilateral bonds have become even stronger of late. In a virtual interaction with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani last month, PM Modi reassured him that ‘in the success of Afghanistan, we see the success of India and the entire region’.

The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has envisaged a United Nations-led initiative to bring together foreign ministers and envoys from Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, India and the US ‘to discuss a unified approach to supporting peace in Afghanistan’. India’s importance in the scheme of things has also been underlined by Russia, which says it’s natural for New Delhi to eventually have a ‘deeper involvement’ in a dedicated dialogue. Moscow has been quick to reject a media report that claimed it kept India out of the peace plan.

The Indo-Pacific is another region where the US is looking forward to unstinting support from India. In the backdrop of China’s assertiveness, the Quad is gradually growing in stature as a countervailing force. The four-nation alliance will take its collaboration to the summit level tomorrow when President Biden will hold virtual talks with the Prime Ministers of India, Japan and Australia. From Covid-19 vaccines to climate change, the grouping is keen to focus on multifaceted cooperation, ostensibly in an effort to counter criticism that it is merely an anti-China platform. Amid the American outreach, India needs to ensure that its own interests are not compromised. Positive developments in the neighbourhood — the Ladakh disengagement and the LoC ceasefire — should spur New Delhi to deftly walk a tightrope.

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