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For the first time, the Indian government has publicly acknowledged that the Indian Ambassador met with the head of the Taliban’s political office. The meeting took place at the Embassy of India, Doha, at the request of the Taliban side.
The rapid collapse of the Afghan government and the triumphant return of the Taliban will have a considerable impact around the world.
The restoration of Taliban rule in Afghanistan with Pakistan’s support undoubtedly presents some very serious potential challenges for India’s security and India’s Afghan policy.
About the recent developments in Afghanistan
Please read the following articles for the recent developments in Afghanistan
- The script of the new endgame in Afghanistan
- Return of Taliban has implications for India
- New Delhi’s Af-Pak: Old friends versus old foes: Should India accept Taliban, betray Afghans or support resistance movements like Saleh’s?
- History over geography
- Modi, Putin discuss Afghanistan; India flags terror concern at BRICS, UNHRC
- Fourth evacuation from Kabul since 1992 & The legal challenges in recognising the Taliban
What are the challenges imposed by the Taliban on India?
If the Taliban did not accept India as a friendly nation, then there are various challenges like,
Challenges to internal security: The U.S. has left Afghanistan without achieving any of its objectives. Further, the Taliban, with their prolonged war with the US, have gained access to many advanced military and sophisticated weapons.
The collapse of the Afghan state will ignite many old threats in West Asia and act as a catalyst for terror outfits in Pakistan.
The power transition that happened in Afghanistan is not a peaceful transition of power. Apart from that, the Taliban is also fighting with other militant groups such as the Islamic State – Khorasan.
All these pose a great internal security threat to India. As the Taliban along with Pakistani jihadists might plan covet attacks on India, especially on the North-Western frontier. They can also indulge in the smuggling of arms and ammunition.
Afghanistan is geographically the part of Golden Crescent (One of the two principal areas of illicit opium production). With the Taliban in power, India may also witness large scale illegal drug trafficking.
Increased tensions with India and Pakistan: After the withdrawal of US forces under the Doha Agreement, Pakistan’s Afghan policy regained its prime. The Pakistan army used the jihadi armies to gain control of Afghanistan and launched a proxy war against India in the past, especially in the Punjab and Kashmir regions. This proxy war will increase in future with the Taliban in power.
Impacts India’s policy on West Asia and Central Asian Republics: The return of the Taliban to Kabul has effectively brought India’s ‘mission Central Asia’ to rest. This is because there is little physical access to India with the north-western landmass. Further, India’s interest also shifted towards Indo-Pacific.
Increased threat from China: The absence of the US in Central Asia provides an opportunity for China in that region. Now China, along with Pakistan, might pursue infrastructure projects in the proximity of Kashmir.
What are the options that lie in front of India?
There are few options that lie before India.
Initiate dialogue with the Taliban and accept them: Even though India initiated dialogue, India still has not officially accepted the Taliban.
Wait and watch: This includes “strategic patience” and not granting “legitimacy”. But the Taliban spokespersons have welcomed India’s continuing involvement in the economic reconstruction of Afghanistan.
So the wait and watch might be seen as a denial from the Taliban as they are engaging with India.
Engage with other democracies to take a unanimous call on Taliban: Canada has already announced that it will not recognise the Taliban, most others are undecided. India can make a similar announcement and unite global players. But, the move might make India’s western frontiers vulnerable.
Imposing UN sanctions on Taliban and later sending a peacekeeping force: In the recent UNSC meeting, India introduced a resolution demanding that territory of Afghanistan not be used to threaten any country or shelter terrorists or to finance terrorist acts.
If the Taliban violates this, then India can initiate the process of imposing sanctions on the Taliban. But China and Russia might block the move.
Suggestions to improve India’s Afghan policy
Immediate initiatives: India needs to implement the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 to protect the minorities in Afghanistan. As and when the situation stabilises medical visas, visas for students who have already secured admission can be considered.
Domestic initiatives: India must maintain vigil against a resurgence of cross-border terrorism that could quickly destabilize Kashmir and escalate the conflict between India and Pakistan.
India must make all possible efforts to get the international community to hold the Taliban to its word on letting all foreigners leave with peace, protecting the lives of all Afghan citizens, and respecting international humanitarian law.
Similarly, India should also make the international community provide humanitarian assistance to the large number of Afghan people displaced by fighting.
India needs to directly engage with the Taliban swiftly and shift focus to our maritime and other challenges. Further, a prolonged wait can make India’s negotiation harder. India recently received an invitation to the “Troika Plus” talks in Doha. It should actively engage in that.
|Read more: Afghan Peace Process and India – Explained, Pointwise|