Afghanistan: The Tricky Situation for India

Taliban's religious leader, Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada

–Dr. Rahul Kumar, Senior columnist and Researcher—

New Taliban Government

(Samaj Weekly)- On 07.09.2021 a new Taliban government in Afghanistan was formed. Mullah Muhammad Hassan is declared Prime Minister of Afghanistan. Two important members of Taliban are appointed Deputy Prime Minister – Mullah Abdul Ghani and Moalvi Abdul Salam Hanafi. All stakeholders were expecting an inclusive government in Afghanistan but that did not happen. The Taliban have also announced important portfolios. The irony is that many of the Taliban Ministers in the new government are on the list of hardcore terrorist of the USA agencies. Will they change themselves? Will they renounce their ideology of violence and fundamentalism?  Will the new government allow Afghan women  to participate in the power structure? It is yet to be seen.

The idea of inclusive government has been negated. It shows that the Taliban leaders think that they are capable of running the country efficiently. Any opposition to their government in any form either within the country or outside the country will not be tolerated. The Taliban claims that they have captured Panjshir valley. However, the leaders of Panjshir valley told the Afghan media that it is a false claim. It seems that the fight between the Taliban new government and leaders of Panjshir valley would go on. It is apprehended that the people of Afghanistan especially women, children would suffer because of this fight.

Afghan Men and Women are suffering

Most of the developed countries have put up several visa restrictions for the Afghan immigrants who are currently seeking visas. India has announced that it will welcome Afghan Hindus, Sikhs who are coming from Afghanistan. The launch of E-visa by India, however, is facilitating these desperate migrants but according to Indian media reports they are suffering due to a corrupt and lethargic bureaucratic system. Many of the Afghan men and women with small children are living in shanty areas of Delhi. It is reported that they are currently short of money to buy food items, milk for their children. Afghan Muslim men are desperately looking for jobs in New Delhi. They feel discriminated against as the Hindu businessmen are not ready to offer them jobs.  New Delhi should formulate a comprehensive legislative framework for Afghan men and women unless there is a complete surety from the new government for their safety and employment. Indian women should come forward to extend a helping hand to Afghan women till they feel that they can safely go back to Afghanistan.

 Tricky Situation for India

All major stakeholders like the USA, Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, Qatar and Turkey in Afghanistan are going to play a major role in the governance of Afghanistan. Before the formation of the new government, the top leaders of these countries have issued several statements on the political, social and economic circumstances in Afghanistan but India remains in a silent mode. India is likely to suffer due to ‘wait and watch’ policy. However, the Taliban have welcomed India to continue its development projects in Afghanistan yet the Pakistan factor would remain there. The media reports from Pakistan imply that the majority of the Pakistan leaders of the ruling party think that the capture of political power by the Taliban is a defeat of India. This mentality shows that Pakistan is going to play a dangerous game against India with the support of the disgruntled elements of the Taliban. Media reports reveal that the Taliban have released many Taliban hardcore terrorists recently. These terrorists are in touch with the Inter- Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan. New Delhi is quite distrustful about the role of ISI of Pakistan in Jammu & Kashmir over the last few years. Indian security agencies have alleged that behind every bomb in Jammu & Kashmir there is a hand of ISI of Pakistan. A statement appeared in The Tribune and other national dailies on 07.09.2021 in which Russian Ambassador in New Delhi Nikolay Kudashev said that any flare-up of the civilian conflict would result in terrorism spilling over across the region including Jammu & Kashmir. Russia is one of the major stakeholders in Afghanistan.  This statement shows that the situation for India is tricky in the coming years. Russia is a reliable, trusted friend of India. India can depend upon Russia as Russia extended a helping hand to India during the 1965 war between India and Pakistan. A capitalist America under Joe Biden Presidency is militarily engaged in more than 70 countries. Its economic resources are drying up; its political dominance is weakening. Today European allies of America feel that it is of no use in taking up fight with the Muslim countries. Post pandemic European nations are utilizing their energy to boost up their economies.

Over the last seven years, New Delhi foreign policy makers have lost many friends in the countries of South Asia, Middle East. The conflict between India and China has further pushed India to the back foot at the international level. China has strengthened its political engagement with the countries in South Asia. India contributed military aid to Bhutan($403 million), Mauritius ($143), Nepal($112), Afghanistan($56million before Taliban took over in August 2021), Maldives($42million), Myanmar ($42million), Bangladesh($200 million), Sri Lanka($28 million) Iran($14million), Seychelles ($19million).Despite huge military aid to these countries by India, China is ruling the roost in these countries.  India`s Cheque Diplomacy in countries like Sri Lanka, Nepal did not yield the political results that New Delhi was expecting. SAGAR programme (Security and Growth for all in the region) is lying in a cold storage.

The submissive attitude of India`s leaders including Dr. S Jai Shankar- India`s External Affairs Minister has projected India as a weak country before the international community. Sitaram Yechury, leader of Communist Party of India and former member of Rajya Sabha said, “Today India has become a subordinate partner of the US military and strategic affairs. Our isolation in Afghanistan is testimony to this. Our foreign policy is not integrated with their policy. He further said, India is a puppet of America”. India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is living under delusion that India is a big market hence foreign investors would come and contribute to the economy of India. Rather, foreign investors have earned and taken money out of India through black money channels.

Dr. S Jai Shankar, Indian Minister for External Affairs said, “India favours an inclusive government”. This statement before the formation of the new government shows that Dr S Jai Shankar was clueless about the movement of the leaders of Taliban. India did not show any perkiness to find out about the role of Pakistan ISI in the formation of the Afghan new government without having diverse members of the opposition parties. In the last few years, Dr S Jai Shankar has been ineffective in carrying out the diplomatic assignments. Therefore, the Modi government must replace Dr S Jai Shankar, EAM, with an experienced, seasoned diplomat who can think out of the box. This is the need of the hour.

India is going to suffer if its intelligence fails in Afghanistan. Sooner or later the UN USA or other stakeholders would recognize the new Afghan government in Afghanistan, will India follow suit? If yes, on what ground when there is no inclusive government; when there is no India`s sympathizer like Ashraf Ghani – the former President of Afghanistan. New Delhi has to speed up its engagement with the new government and win friends to sustain its investment in Afghanistan. Iran being a neighbouring country of Afghanistan is very important for India. India has to change its foreign policy towards Iran and deal with Iran minus the pressure from the USA administration. The delay at this critical time will cost India huge economic and political losses.

Dr. Rahul Kumar, PhD, is an independent researcher. He writes on international affairs, foreign policy, and diplomacy. The views expressed in this article are his own and do not represent the views of the paper.