The UN Security Council has confirmed the worst misgivings, i.e. that the Taliban is closely allied with Al Qaida, for all the assurances recently advanced to the US delegation at the high table in Doha, a meeting that has fructified in a peace agreement of sorts. Both represent forces of destabilisation and they do have the potential to be equally destructive.

It is only the label that is different, depending on geostrategic compulsions. The point is suitably explicit in the latest report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team of the Security Council. Arguably, the report has taken the lid off a pretty kettle of fish with the observation ~ “Relations between the Taliban, especially the Haqqani network and Al Qaida remain close.

The Taliban regularly consulted Al Qaida during negotiations with the United States and offered guarantees that it would honour their historical ties”. For India, the report reaffirms the perception that Pakistan remains the “epicentre of terrorism”, if the immediate response of the Ministry of External Affairs is any indication.

“We note with serious concern reference in the report to the continued presence of the senior leadership of the UN-designated terrorist organisation, notably Al Qaida, and its affiliates in Afghanistan. A large number of foreign terrorist fighters, including up to 6500 Pakistani nationals, are operating in Afghanistan”.

The geostrategy of the two militant groups is obvious enough ~ While the Al Qaida’s presence is largely based in Pakistan, neighbouring Afghanistan is the nerve-centre of the Taliban, when not the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. India has been loath to hold talks with the Taliban primarily because the outfit is intrinsically a terrorist entity.

The report said that though Al Qaida welcomed the US-Taliban peace deal in Doha, it has greeted the agreement as a “victory” for the Taliban and what it calls “international jihad”. This can be contextualised with the Security Council’s word of caution, specifically that “the challenge will be to secure the counter-terrorism gains to which the Taliban has been committed.

This will require them to suppress any international threat emanating from Al Qaida in Afghanistan”. The UN report has referred to the differences between the Doha delegation, led by Mullah Baradar, and the more hardline commander, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, who happens to be the head of the Taliban’s political office in Qatar as also head of the negotiating team with the US.

He has already gone on record as having criticised India for supporting the elected government of President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul. Without spelling out the details, the Stanekzai faction of the Taliban wants India to take “positive steps in the Afghan peace process”. Delhi is aware that the terrain is as rugged as it is dangerous. With or without a peace deal, the Taliban soldiers on. As does the Al Qaida.