New Delhi: On one track, Pakistan has resumed calls for peace with India without diluting its stand on Kashmir and eschewing any reference to terrorism as the central problem between the two countries. On this note, the foreign affairs advisor to the Pakistan Prime Minister attended the Heart of Asia conference on Afghanistan in Amritsar where his only supporter was the Russian representative soft-pedalling Pakistani terrorism. Pakistan once again called for a peace dialogue at the end-of-the-year briefing of the Pakistan foreign office some days ago. Meanwhile, cross-border India-Pakistan artillery duels have reduced, and these coincide with the appointment of a new Pakistan army chief who is said to be an avid India-watcher and something of an expert on the military dynamics of the LoC.

On a separate track, Pakistan, China and Russia have come together to reach some sort of understanding with the Taliban with respect to Afghanistan. Russia and China are determined to use their special position as two of the only five permanent UN Security Council members to remove powerful Taliban names from the UN banned list despite Afghanistan’s strenuous objections. Afghanistan has not been invited to the pro-Taliban deliberations of Russia, China and Pakistan led by Russia. Iran was earlier said to be part of these deliberations but has not publicly identified with them. Since Russia intervened in the Syrian civil war on the side of Bashar al-Assad beginning last year, it has invited the wrath of Sunni terrorist groups, and especially the Islamic State. Russia and China fear a burgeoning IS presence in the Af-Pak region bolstered by militants fleeing Syria and Iraq. The two Great Powers hope to use the Taliban to counter the Islamic State. And as usual, Pakistan is trying to broker the deal and facilitate the process in general, hoping thereby to regain control of Afghan affairs.

Are the first and second track linked? And should India be especially cautious about reciprocating Pakistan’s peace overtures? The answer to the first question is, highly likely, and to the second, yes. While the Indian government would be in possession of vast amounts of intelligence on these questions and subjects as compared to the negligible information on hand with this writer, still some independent analysis can do no harm and may even assist to bring the matter to the forefront of public discourse.

It is highly likely that Russia is behind Pakistan’s peace overtures. While Russia has spoken in the present context of the desirability of peace between India and Pakistan, it knows of Indian sensitivities too ardently to press the matter beyond a point. Russia has an existing friendly relationship with India although the trust element has considerably reduced since Russia has drawn closer to the Pakistan military. Nations, however, continue to play the deception game long after they have been exposed, and this is probably Russia’s situation vis-a-vis India. The Russia-India defence equipment partnership remains huge, but it is now India’s call to determine how long that can be firewalled from the obvious congruence of interests of Russia and Pakistan.

Russia appears to be pushing for India-Pakistan peace because it realizes India can be an obstacle to the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. An India-Pakistan peace, on the other hand, would simplify a lot of matters. This is an exact replica of the US position before it gave up the peace attempt with the Taliban, deciding that there were, after all, no good Taliban to choose. Russia, to be sure, is strategically shooting itself in the foot promoting the Taliban, forgetting its own terrible experience in Afghanistan, but that is not strictly India’s business. If Russia cannot see that it is courting disaster, there is little India can do. But India cannot – and should not – fall into the trap laid by Russia through faux Pakistani peace moves.

India is not only morally but geopolitically correct to oppose the return of the Taliban to power in Afghanistan. The Taliban will face the same legitimacy deficit as the “mujahideen” faced once they gained power in Afghanistan. By their association with Russia and China after the bloodshed in Syria, the Taliban will steadily lose ground to whichever terrorist organization claims greater purity in the cause of jihad, whether it is the Islamic State or another formation. The “mujahideen” lost to the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda to the Islamic State. History very likely will repeat itself in the Af-Pak region. India would not wish to be part of this mess legitimizing the rule of one or another terrorist faction.

India-Pakistan peace would have to wait another time. There is too much baggage there as such and it cannot be linked to the Afghanistan question which comes with its own set of problems. Russia should be politely told to mind its own business about India-Pakistan relations and warned in not so polite terms of the consequences of participating in another red rag for India, namely the CPEC project. The Indian government would know how to handle these two matters. Russian meddling in 1979 in Afghanistan triggered the rebirth of Islamism. Not having learnt anything from history, the bane of its leadership since the Tsars, it is back to playing with fire. India should harden its defences against the wild blazes which are bound to surge forth from the west.

Editor’s Note: If Russia can intervene against the democratic election process in the US, there is no reason to believe India is immune. India should be on guard against future Russian meddling.