QUESTION : The proposed withdrawal of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) from Afghanistan is fraught with major security implications for the countries of the region. Examine in light of the fact that India is faced with a plethora of challenges and needs to safeguard its own strategic interests 

India and Taliban 
Over a third of Afghanistan’s more than 400 districts are under Taliban control.
• With the withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan in process, New Delhi has decided to ramp down its civilian presence in the war-torn country, bracing for a full-blown civil war. 
• India has ‘temporarily’ closed its consulate in Kandahar and evacuated its diplomats and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) personnel stationed there. 
• As a result, India today is left with its Embassy in Kabul and the consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif.
• New Delhi’s decision to partially “withdraw” from Afghanistan shows that supporting only the government in Kabul was a big mistake.
• New Delhi realises the threat Taliban poses to Indian assets and presence in Afghanistan.
• Inherent Complexities: The Afghan dialogue has been riddled with the presence of multiple stakeholders including the Afghan government, Taliban, Haqqani Network and various tribes existing in the region. This complicates the process due to conflicting viewpoints and divergence in opinion on the direction the dialogue process should take.
• Role of External Actors: Apart from the internal variations, Afghanistan is also interference from various other countries including Pakistan, US, China and other actors like Pakistan’s ISI. This complicates the process with some groups pulling the peace process in different directions as per their self-interest and others intent on sabotaging the peace process by getting involved with non-state actors.
• Role of Pakistan: The international community has outlined the role of Pakistan in promoting terror groups like Taliban for meeting its own political ends. International media has criticized Pakistan for its intentions of toppling the Afghan government and installing the Taliban regime as its puppet in Afghanistan.
• Withdrawal of International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) forces:  US administration has set 9/11 as the final date for its withdrawal from the territory of Afghanistan.  This has increased the incidents of violence in the country with many dormant groups becoming active for reclaiming their role in the leadership of Afghanistan. This has raised concerns of Afghanistan slipping back to chaos in the absence of any forthcoming international assistance.
• Overtone of Violence: Afghan peace process has assumed violent overtones due to the constant infighting among the tribes as well as the non-state actors. This makes it difficult to conduct dialogue within Afghan society. This has been complicated by the assertiveness of Taliban which has been emboldened by the withdrawal of US forces claiming it as their victory.
• Building a Counter-narrative: Taliban has picked its targets carefully in the form of moderate politicians, Afghan security forces and school going women in the hope of building a narrative in the country. It wants to bring back the conservative culture by selectively targeting the reform-oriented persons and establishments. This needs to be countered by the international community to ensure a peaceful, reform-oriented and just society in the country. 
Indirect talks with Taliban :
• In late 2018, when Moscow organised a conference which had the Taliban, members of the Afghan High Peace Council, and other countries from the region in attendance, India sent a ‘non-official delegation’ of two retired diplomats to Moscow. 
• Recently, India’s External Affairs Minister joined the inaugural session of the intra-Afghan negotiations in Doha. 
• Losing support from Afghan President: If New Delhi chooses to engage the Taliban directly, it could make Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani may look towards China and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) for national security and personal political survival.
• Multi faced Taliban: India is also faced with the dilemma of who to talk to within the Taliban given that it is not an uniform organisation.The only option might be the Doha-based Taliban negotiators. 
• There is little clarity about what the Taliban’s real intentions are going forward and what they would do after ascending to power in Kabul. 
• There is the possibility of Pakistan acting out against India in Kashmir if India were to establish deeper links with the Taliban. 
• Accepting the reality: Taliban, one way or another, is going to be part of the political power in Afghanistan, and most of the international community are going to recognise/negotiate/do business with the Taliban. Non-engagement with Taliban might lead to India being left out in the country.
• Pakistan Factor: So the less proactive the Indian engagement with the Taliban, the stronger Pakistan-Taliban relations would become, which is against India’s interest in the region.
• Political Need of Taliban: Taliban today is looking for regional and global partners for recognition and legitimacy especially in the neighbourhood. Also, to balance its neighbour Pakistan, Taliban might be looking for India as its strategic partner.
• To ensure security of India’s civilian assets: It makes neither strategic nor economic sense to withdraw from Afghanistan after spending over $3 billion by India in developmental aid. Therefore, India needs to engage with Taliban to ensure security of its civilian assets.
• To shape regional destiny: If India is not proactive in Afghanistan at least now, Russia, Iran, Pakistan and China will emerge as the shapers of Afghanistan’s political and geopolitical destiny, which for sure will be detrimental to Indian interests ther.
• Opening up the congested north-western frontier:  Backchannel talks and consequent ceasefire with Pakistan, political dialogue with the mainstream Kashmiri leadership, secret parleys with Taliban all indicate that New Delhi is opening up its congested north-western frontier. Proactive engagement of the Taliban will provide this effort with more strategic heft.
• Engagement is not endorsement: Open engagement of the Taliban is neither tolerating nor accepting the condemnable atrocities committed by the Taliban. 
• Afghanistan serves India’s security and economic interests.
• Afghanistan is tied to India’s vision of being a regional leader and a great power, coupled with its competition with China over resources and its need to counter Pakistani influence.
• India’s ability to mentor a nascent democracy will go a long way to demonstrate to the world that India is indeed a major power, especially a responsible one.
• The pipeline project TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India), which seeks to connect an energy-rich Central to South Asia, will only see the light of the day if stability is established in Afghanistan.
• India’s interest in Afghanistan relates to its need to reduce Pakistani influence in the region.
• New Delhi needs Kabul to get a better view of Islamabad and hence it is pertinent that it fosters positive relations.
• For access to the landlocked Central Asian countries that border Afghanistan.
• The country is home to resource deposits worth one trillion dollars, according to the US Geological Survey.
• Clarity in Expectations: There is a need to make it clear to Taliban and other non-state actors that what is expected out of them in order to let them continue having a presence in the political establishment. If the Taliban is unable to meet such concerns, then there is a need for commensurate rewards and punishments to make it amenable to the concerns of the international community.
• Reigning in Pakistan: As has been pointed out by many security experts, Pakistan has been the main actor in Afghanistan, especially backing the Taliban regime despite their emphasis on using terror as the instrument of projecting authority. Therefore, for any progress to be expected, Pakistan needs to be stopped from promoting violence and terror in the Afghan society.
• Taking China on Board: It is an open secret that Pakistan’s support to Taliban is based on financial backing from China. Otherwise, given the state of Pakistan’s economy, it would find it hard to finance the terrorist activities of non-state actors in Afghanistan. However, China needs to understand that a strong terrorist group on its border will ultimately affect its own provinces, including complicating the Uighur Muslims issue it faces in the Western Xinjiang region. Therefore, it is in its own interest to tide over Pakistan in not supporting Taliban regime in its terrorist overtures.
• Provision of Aid: It is important to understand that it would be easy for terror groups to pull youth into their ranks if they are not engaged in gainful employment and their aspirations are not fulfilled. The international community needs to stand in solidarity with the war-torn country and redouble its efforts towards rebuilding the ravaged country, following the Indian example.
• India’s engagement with stakeholders: Taliban has extended the olive branch towards India, highlighting their intention of getting over their dependence on Pakistan and extending the peace prospects in the region. There is a need to engage with all stakeholders to ensure that Afghan territory is not used for anti-India activities. In this context, India must start back-channel diplomacy to engage with the different stakeholders in Afghanistan, including Taliban. 
• Opening up the congested north-western frontier is key to India’s continental grand strategy. Backchannel talks with Pakistan and a consequent ceasefire on the Line of Control, political dialogue with the mainstream Kashmiri leadership, secret parleys with Taliban all indicate that New Delhi is opening up its congested north-western frontier. Proactive engagement of the Taliban will provide this effort with more strategic heft. 
• Also, there is a need to engage with all stakeholders amid an Afghan-led, Afghan-controlled and Afghan–owned peace process. India would do well to reciprocate the advances made by Taliban in including India in the peace process and contributing to the Afghan redevelopment efforts.

QUESTION : Analyse the whole issue among OPEC and non-OPEC countries was seen recently and how it impacts India ? 

UAE’S Impasse with Saudi and Russia 
The end to the UAE’s weeks-long impasse with Saudi Arabia and Russia, a non-OPEC state, was brought about by Sunday’s deal.
• United Arab Emirates (UAE), said to hold the world’s largest untapped crude reserves, had demanded an increase in its oil output quotas.
• The end to the UAE’s weeks-long impasse with Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s biggest crude exporters, and Russia, a non-OPEC state, was brought about by Sunday’s deal.
• Under its terms, the UAE’s demand for an increase in its oil output quotas, in recognition of its higher production capacity, has been conceded.
• The baselines have also been raised for Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iraq and Kuwait.
• The bloc will now step up crude production by 400,000 barrels a day starting in August.
• The output boost is in response to rising oil prices in the wake of the rebound in economic activity following the easing of lockdown restrictions and increased COVID-19 vaccinations in different parts of the world.
• The cartel had cut oil production by 9.7 million barrels a day (mbd) as oil demand fell from 100 mbd to 91.1 mbd and prices plummeted from $70 in January 2020 to around $20 in April.
• The UAE has played hard ball during the bloc’s attempts to deal with the pandemic-induced price volatility.
• Thus, while the internal rift has been resolved for now, the danger cannot be ruled out of an increasingly economically and politically assertive UAE flexing its muscle.
• Bilateral relations between the traditional allies, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have been especially strained since the UAE established diplomatic ties with Israel last year and withdrew troops from the Saudi-spearheaded war in Yemen the year before.
• A more recent arena of tension is the tariffs Riyadh has imposed on imports from the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council.
• Saudi Arabia will now exclude from the GCC tariff agreement goods made by companies with a workforce of less than 25% of locals and industrial products with less than 40% of added value after their transformation process.
• Home to a predominantly migrant population, the move could hit the UAE especially hard.
• The OPEC, forecast in 2016 that a strict implementation of the Paris climate accord could see the demand for oil peak by 2030.
• There is an eagerness to maximise the returns on their substantial hydrocarbon resources, amid growing speculation of a peak in oil demand within sight.
• The International Energy Agency (IEA), which in 2016 forecast a continued rise in oil consumption until the 2040s, has more recently hinted at about 5% rise or fall relative to the demand before the pandemic within a decade.
• The OPEC’s other concerns are the stabilisation of world oil prices without jeopardising national expenditure programmes, and the diversification of economies in anticipation of the unfolding global energy transition. 
• The non-OPEC countries which export crude oil along with the 14 OPECs are termed as OPEC plus countries.
• OPEC plus countries include Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Brunei, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mexico, Oman, Russia, South Sudan and Sudan.
• Saudi and Russia, both have been at the heart of a three-year alliance of oil producers known as OPEC Plus — which now includes 11 OPEC members and 10 non-OPEC nations — that aims to shore up oil prices with production cuts. 
• Delayed Relief: 
• If the UAE and other OPEC+ nations do not reach an agreement to increase production in August, expected relief in the form of lower crude oil prices could be delayed.
• High Domestic Prices: 
• India is currently facing record-high prices of petrol and diesel. High crude prices have led to Indian oil marketing companies hiking the price of petrol by about 19.3% and that of diesel by about 21% since the beginning of 2021.
• Slow Recovery: 
• The high price of crude oil was slowing down the economic recovery of developing economies post the Pandemic.
• Inflation: 
• The high prices might also increase the Current Account Deficit and put inflationary pressure on the Indian economy. 
Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) : 
o It is a permanent, intergovernmental organization, created at the Baghdad Conference in 1960, by Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela.
o It aims to manage the supply of oil in an effort to set the price of oil in the world market, in order to avoid fluctuations that might affect the economies of both producing and purchasing countries.
 Headquarter: Vienna, Austria.
   OPEC membership is open to any country that is a substantial exporter of oil and which shares the ideals of the organization.
o OPEC has a total of 13 Member Countries viz. Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Libya, Nigeria, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Republic of Congo, Angola and Venezuela are members of OPEC. 
The latest OPEC compromise echoes growing recognition of the delicate balance between competing domestic and global priorities.

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