Vivek Katju writes: Why India must engage Taliban

Relevance: India – Taliban relations, Engaging with Taliban

Context: On June 2, the Ministry of External Affairs announced that a team led by J P Singh, Joint Secretary (PAI) is currently on a visit to Kabul to oversee the delivery operations of India’s humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.

The government clarified that although the delegation would meet senior members of Taliban, this engagement should be seen only in limited context of assistance to the Afghan people.

What are the Taliban’s views on this visit?

A Taliban spokesperson tweeted that diplomatic relations between the two countries, and trade and humanitarian assistance were discussed.

Singh’s visit was branded as a good beginning in the ties between the two countries.

The Taliban stressed that bilateral ties would not be influenced by rivalries with other countries. This was an obvious indication of the Taliban’s desire to develop independent ties with India despite its bonds with Pakistan.

Why India must engage the Taliban?

Security concerns

Afghanistan impacts India’s security. It has, in the past, provided space to al-Qaeda with which the Taliban had a special relationship. Afghanistan has an ISIS presence too, though the Taliban is at odds with it.

Of special concern to India are the Taliban’s ties with the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed. A recent United Nations report has emphasised that the Taliban’s connections with these groups have not been severed. Indeed, it is unlikely that the Taliban would entirely turn its back on them.

An engagement with the Taliban would at least give an opportunity to convey Indian concerns directly and encourage those elements within the group who wish to open up its diplomatic choices.

India should not leave the Afghan arena entirely to Pakistan and China because of the social manifestation of Taliban theology on the Afghan people.

Way forward

It is good that India has extended humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan at this time through international agencies and not let its unhappiness with the Taliban’s policies come in the way.

There are indications of the development of some opposition to the Taliban in the Panjshir valley. However, it would be futile for Indian policymakers to consider this as becoming effective. At most, it will remain an irritant to the Taliban. There is also no indication of a popular countrywide upsurge which could push them out. Thus, the Taliban is here to stay and for India, there is no alternative but to deal with it.

There would also be nothing wrong in maintaining contacts with some of the leaders of the ousted Republic, especially as the Taliban itself wants them to return to the country.

All in all, the sooner India establishes a permanent presence in Kabul, the better for the pursuit of national interests in the external sphere.

Source: This post is based on the article “Vivek Katju writes: Why India must engage Taliban” published in The Indian Express on 7th June 22.

Print Friendly and PDF