The four nation talks on Afghanistan have resumed from Monday. Delegates from China, Pakistan, USA and Afghanistan met in Muscat (Oman) as part of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG). The idea behind the group is to revive talks with the Taliban as part of the mission to cleanse Afghanistan off the extremist elements. The aim is to reach a peace negotiation with the Taliban to improve the situation of the country. The group met for the first time in 2016. However after the death of Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, the talks came to an abrupt stop.
This is another attempt to bring Taliban on the same page as these four countries. While all the countries who met recently in Muscat claim that the meeting was a success this time around, in spite of the fact that the objective of the meeting was to start a line of communication with Taliban representatives – a component that was missing.
Despite this, the “success” that is being presented is the resumption of dialogue between the QCG nation states. After increased tensions – especially between the US and Pakistan – in the recent past, multifaceted reengagement between the nations is being considered a “symbolic” gesture of better relations. While a dedicated forum where high-powered officials from the QCG can meet regularly is a positive step – its importance must not be overstated.
The discussion in improvement of bilateral ties via arranging a coherent dialogue process, increasing trade and economic ties can be held on other platforms – and it already is. All four QCG states have several bilateral agreements with the rest over all manner of issues.
While the breakthroughs in Muscat can be, and should be, categorised as meaningful talk, the focus should remain bringing the Taliban – the key element to the whole process – to the table.
The fate of the QCG is inevitably tied to effective cooperation in Afghanistan, and by extension, to the only non-cooperative party – the Taliban. Despite the myriad issues and cooperative ventures still remaining in Afghanistan, the QCG melted away the last time as soon as the Taliban left the negotiating table.
It is not difficult to see that a similar fate may befall this new initiative if the Taliban are not incentivized to come to send representative to Muscat.