IndiaWhat's the harm in talking to the Taliban?

What’s the harm in talking to the Taliban?

Bharat Karnad

Wars take place, mass movements emerge, foreign intervention fails, governments fall, a new regime emerges. The situation is similar in most of the third world countries. So what happened in Afghanistan in the last few days was not surprising. America’s political courage was lost and there was a dispute with each other that because of whom Afghanistan got out of hand. Ashraf Ghani left the country in the midst of a dangerous situation and the National Army of Afghanistan disappeared. Just like those two trillion dollars that America had thrown in this ‘never-ending war’. All this was foreseen. Surprisingly, there was only one thing. Everyone was surprised by the speed with which the Taliban recaptured Kabul.


Democracy has been coming

After this, it is now a matter of calculation of profit and loss. Taliban will not follow the path of Modern Democracy. When Mullah Omar was declared Emir, in 1998 some Islamic scholars prepared ‘Dastur Emirat Islamic Afghanistan’. In 2020, another similar document ‘Mansoor Emarat Islamic Afghanistan’ was prepared. Democracy was opposed in both the documents. As far as the current situation is concerned, the attitude of the Taliban leadership under the command of Haibatullah Akhundzada and Abdul Ghani Baradar has so far shown a good deal. He has promised to form a government that will take care of all and give amnesty.

But the opposition camp is also mobilizing. The Taliban are largely composed of the Gilzai clan. In such a situation, other Pashtun tribes can go along with Tajik, Baloch and Shia Hazara fighters. They might consider joining the previous government’s vice-president Amarullah Saleh and national security adviser Hamdullah Mohib. There are still several units of the Afghan Army with Saleh and Mohib. Ahmed Masood’s loyal Tajiks sitting in the Panjshir Valley are also with him. On the other hand, Colonel Abdul Dostum is also uniting the Uzbek camp. In such a situation, more resistance can emerge this time than the Northern Alliance gave to the Taliban last time.

India, Pakistan, China and Russia fear that whatever the Taliban is making, it may join hands with al-Qaeda, Islamic State, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad. They can increase trouble in Kashmir and fuel extremism in Pakistan through Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. There are also fears that they may infiltrate through the Wakhan border, incite Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, China, and strengthen the ground of ‘terrorist ideology’ in the Muslim-majority areas of southern Russia.

China believes that the hands of the Taliban are tight, so it can engage the Taliban with them by giving huge loans and through infrastructure projects. Russia so far seems to be on the side of the Taliban in front of everyone, but its thinking is that it will prepare countries around Central Asia to support the fighters of the Panjshir Valley. Tajikistan is already with them. On the other hand, Pakistan is assuming that its intelligence agency ISI, in coordination with Quetta and Peshawar’s Shura, will cool down the mood of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. The three countries are of the opinion that the Taliban regime should be given formal recognition as soon as possible so that after that they can fulfill their objectives.

Here the condition of India was such that after seeing the face of America, steps were being taken without thinking and in this affair the Afghans were out of the game. America has come to such a condition that it can no longer take great care of its interests on Afghan soil. In such a situation, instead of waiting, India should immediately step in and recognize the Afghan Emirate. On recognition, the Taliban will accept India’s favor and take care of India’s interests. This will give an edge against Pakistan. A diplomatic hold in Afghanistan will increase India’s influence and legally defeat anti-India forces like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hizb-e-Islami, who are active in Kabul. India has already been popular in Afghanistan for things like Bollywood films and the presence of Afghan cricketers in the IPL. In such a situation, India will not face much problem in increasing its influence again. The Taliban also have an advantage in this as it has to make way with about 30 percent of the urban population there.

Taliban must be tempted

The seasoned pair of Baradar and Akhundzada know that it is one thing to build an emirate’s system and another to build a government that takes everyone along. Joining a democratic India will benefit the image of the Afghan emirate to some extent and increase its credibility in the world. India had given money to build the Zaranj-Delaram Highway in Afghanistan. Due to that highway, it has become easy to bring opium from remote areas of Afghanistan to the Iran border. There are opium processing units on the Iran border. Afghanistan lost revenue due to smuggling of opium. His revenue increased due to the highway.

The advantage of such a grassroots and clear-cut policy is that India will not have to worry about maintaining its old ties with the alliance in the Panjshir Valley. Of all the options before India, the best is to woo the Taliban regime by early recognition and fear that if things do not work out, ties with the opposition camp will be strengthened.

(The author is Emeritus Professor of National Security Studies at the Center for Policy Research)

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are those of the author.

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