An article by Huma Siddiqui posted on Financial Express website notes that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) has all the regional powers that have security and financial stakes in Afghanistan.  This means, as a regional security organization, it can play a stabilizing role in Afghanistan by neutralizing the Taliban and balancing the external players.

“As a regional security organization, it can play a stabilizing role in Afghanistan by neutralizing the Taliban and balancing the external players. The SCO charter clearly mandates the organization to take decisive steps against the forces of terrorism, radicalism and separatism. It has a Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) headed by Jumakhon Giyosov, a Tajik national,” Prof Rajan Kumar, School of International Studies, JNU, was cited as saying.

“The SCO had created an Afghan Contact Group in 2005, which lost momentum, but was revived again in 2017.  The withdrawal of the US forces has re-activated the members of the SCO.  Russia, China and Pakistan are actively negotiating with the Taliban,” he says.

However, in his opinion “the regional dynamics may impact the negotiations within the SCO.  Pakistan, backed by China, would like India to stay away from Afghanistan.  It fears that India may try to contain and influence anti-Pakistan forces in Afghanistan.  New Delhi’s connectivity project to Afghanistan through Chabahar is reportedly also detrimental to Beijing’s and Islamabad’s designs in the region. Pakistan would seek to subvert such a project and work with China to develop alternative routes, which was not possible until the US forces were there.”

“One may expect a China-Pakistan-Afghanistan connectivity project sometime soon.  Beijing would make every attempt to extend its influence in Kabul in order to cut possible Taliban support to Uighurs in its Xinjiang province.”

According to Prof Rajan, “One of the difficulties of negotiations on Afghanistan is that there are too many stakeholders and several dialogue forums.  The US is having a dialogue in Doha, Russia has started an extended troika format, and Turkey leads the “Heart of Asia” conference, while Pakistan and China have their own conferences.”

“Russia is yet to confirm India’s participation in the extended troika format.  President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy for Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, allegedly made a statement that “India cannot join the group because it has no influence with the Taliban.”  While this may partly be true, the fact remains that the Taliban itself is not a homogenous group.  Regional stability would require negotiations not only with the Taliban but several other stakeholders, where India can play a constructive role. India’s security interests in the region are similar to those of Russia and Iran.  It must be the part of every dialogue process, and cannot allow an important region to slip away from its hand,” Prof Rajan opines.

In conclusion he says, “The success of India’s diplomacy would depend on its ability to present its case firmly in ongoing dialogue processes within the SCO and the extended troika.”