Just as talks between the United States and the Taliban had seemingly reached a culmination point, with the two sides agreeing “in principle” to a draft accord, President Trump threw in a curveball, by calling off negotiations altogether. Regardless of the ultimate outcome of negotiations, however, there remain reservations and questions on all sides over the contents of a potential deal, and how the ground situation would play out with or without a deal, not just for Afghanistan, but for the neighbourhood at large. If the Taliban assume political office as part of the “peace deal”, will Afghanistan once again fall prey to barbaric governance based on strict Islamic law? Upon withdrawal from Afghanistan, would the US have any leverage to ensure the Taliban hold their end of the bargain, or are we heading towards a “no deal” US exit from Afghanistan?
Finally, what consequences would a changing political and strategic landscape of Afghanistan have for India and other countries in the neighbourhood.
Organised by the Neighbourhood Studies Initiative of the Strategic Studies Programme at Observer Research Foundation, this half-day conference aims to bring together academics, journalists, regional security analysts and defence experts for a productive exchange of ideas and perspectives on the brewing chaos within Afghanistan. The conversations will also strive to explore the best possible ways for India to navigate through a turbulent phase in regional dynamics, and maintain the strategic balance required for the fulfilment of its national security objectives.
Maj. Gen. B.K. Sharma, Head, Centre for Strategic Studies & Simulation, The United Service Institution of India
Indrani Bagchi, Diplomatic Editor, The Times of India
Maria Abi Habib, South Asia Correspondent, The New York Times
Brig. N.K. Bhatia, SM
Rakesh Sood, Distinguished Fellow, Observer Research Foundation and former Ambassador to Afghanistan, Government of India
Rana Banerji, former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India
Shakti Sinha, Director, Nehru Memorial Museum & Library
Sushant Sareen, Senior Fellow, Observer Research Foundation
Tilak Devasher, former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India
Vivek Katju, former Secretary (West), Ministry of External Affairs and former Ambassador to Afghanistan, Government of India
10:00 – 10:30 a.m. | Registration
10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. | Session 1: Afghanistan and Continuing Uncertainties
The collapse of “peace talks” has added to the political and strategic uncertainty in Afghanistan. The security situation is deteriorating, and the military stalemate isn’t likely to change. Will government forces be able to hold off the Taliban offensive? Would reconciliation on Taliban terms be better than no reconciliation at all? Is peace a realistic possibility in Afghanistan?
12:00 – 1:30 p.m. | Session 2: India’s Options
India is concerned about growing insecurity and political instability in Afghanistan. However, India’s options in Afghanistan remain limited owing to lack of geographical contiguity and physical military presence in the country. Going forward, what could be the best possible options for India in Afghanistan?
1:30 p.m. onwards | Lunch
Due to limited availability, seating will be on a first come, first served basis.