While the G-20 summit in Washington, with prime minister Manmohan Singh attending, will focus on the international economic crisis, India has a duty, and an opportunity, to focus the attention of the summiteers, especially those from the five major powers, to an unrelated but critical issue, Afghanistan. Why Afghanistan? The Afghan and Pakistan presidents, Hamid Karzai and Asif Zardari, and Saudi king Abdullah have been holding discussions in New York to bring the so-called "moderate" Taliban into the Afghanistan government. India must oppose this, and in these transition months between the outgoing Bush administration and the incoming Obama one, the Manmohan Singh government must articulate and convince the US and world powers how pivotal it is to persist and persevere with Afghanistan's democracy experiment, and that bringing in the Taliban would reverse the process, and gain the Al-Qaeda a state it was denied after 9/ 11.

Bringing in the "good" Taliban was a plan the US's NATO allies were hot about, not because they considered it would do any good to Afghanistan's future, but that it would provide an exit route out for their armies engaged in a long war with the Al-Qaeda and Taliban. The United States, which appeared a spectator to this process of bringing in the Taliban into an Afghan government, finally said no. To be accurate, the Bush administration, obviously on the advise of Pentagon, said there would be no accommodation with the enemy Taliban and Al-Qaeda, because of a fear in the mind that it would be propagated all over the world, but especially in the Islamic world, by the Al-Qaeda that America had retreated from Afghanistan, that it was the second superpower after the Soviet Union to be vanquished by the Islamic militants in Afghanistan. It would provide the greatest morale-booster to the Al-Qaeda after the post-9/ 11 eviction from Afghanistan.

But apparently, according to the papers, the Obama side has authorized the mediation to bring in the Taliban into the Afghanistan government. Barack Obama would be under pressure to be different from president George W.Bush, and it would be a veritable coup if he has in place roadmaps for exits from both Afghanistan and Iraq, which would allow him to concentrate on rebuilding US power and, as a part of that exercise, rescuing its economy. If experts are to be believed that rescuing the economy itself would consume three years of a four-year term, one can understand Obama's desperation to get moving. But Iraq took a long slog to stabilize, and no light shows down the Afghan tunnel. Even stabilized Iraq does not qualify for a quick American evacuation, and the job has just about begun in Afghanistan. Getting the Taliban in will create an Afghanistan ready and able to execute 9/ 11 second edition, and make no mistake, this will be of the nuclear variety. Does Barack Obama wish to go down in history as the president who sank America?

This is not rhetoric but reality if the Taliban is allowed into any governing set-up in Afghanistan, and the Indian delegation to the G-20 summit should spell out the horrors in clear terms to the attending summiteers plus one of Obama's point-persons for the summit, Madeleine Albright. Albright has apparently told the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, ahead of the summit, that "Obama attaches high priority to stronger ties with India." That is nice to know but it is not enough. China conveyed to Obama its concerns about American "meddling" in Taiwan, and Russia has gotten tough on US anti-missile defence systems coming up in Poland and the Czech Republic. Not quite in those terms but forcefully enough, India must convey its concern to the Obama team about bringing in the Taliban in Afghanistan, and using that opportunity to express apprehension about Obama's likely Kashmir policy. The Indian delegation to the US is strong on finance and economics, so it might not be a bad idea to fly in the NSA, M.K.Narayanan (unless he is quietly there), to raise the Afghan issue on the side. India should be concerned because the Taliban and the Pakistan ISI conspired to bomb the Indian embassy in Kabul in July this year, killing the Indian military attaché and a serving diplomat. India has to speak up to preserve its interests, create opportunities where none exit. No one else will.