Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj
Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj attends a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (not pictured) at the Palace Hotel, on the sidelines of the the United Nations General Assembly in Manhattan, New York, U.S., September 22, 2017.REUTERS/Darren Ornitz

As the possibility of Donald Trump withdrawing American forces from Afghanistan arises, the Indian government is working behind the curtains to open channels of communications with top Afghani leaders.

India is reported to have held talks with Pashtuns, Hazaras and Tajiks factions to ensure stability in the war-torn country after a possible US withdrawal. The Indian Express has reported that some of the leaders representing these communities have visited India and  met "those who matter in the Indian system."

One of the sources said: "We have independently started engaging with all major political actors and factions since we have major economic assets in Afghanistan and need to secure those interests."

As it is now becoming evident that the US is brokering a deal with the Taliban to enable its exit from Afghanistan, India has been working silently over the last few months.

In a major departure from its long-held stance of not talking to any terrorist organisation, India shared the table with the Taliban when it sent two of its best former diplomats for the Russia-organised Moscow format talks. Former Indian envoy to Pakistan T C A Raghavan and former Indian envoy to Afghanistan Amar Sinha represented India "unofficially" in these talks.

Although India denied its participation in the meeting and it was a non-official involvement, it was clear that India is now willing to share the table with 'Taliban'. 

Apache helicopter
The choppers can easily slip around mountains for cover. (File photo: A US Army Apache helicopter flies past snow covered mountains during a re-supply mission in eastern Afghanistan's Kunar province December 23, 2008)Reuters

Upcoming presidential election

Former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai was among the principal actors with whom Delhi has been engaging. Karzai has slowly become a  key player in the peace and reconciliation process. Afghanistan is bound to elect its president and the candidates registering to take the top political post include sitting Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah, former National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar, former National Directorate of Security chief Rahmatullah Nabil and Hizb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

India last week insisted that insisted that the Afghan presidential elections should take place as scheduled. 

In recent times, India has also engaged with other international stakeholders including the US, Russia, Iran and several Central Asian countries. It is learned that India is now even planning to have a discussion with Chinese interlocutors as well, who have economic stakes in Afghanistan.