- GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors.
- GS-3: Indian Economy & Its challenges
India and Taliban
Context: The fall of major Afghan cities and provinces to the Taliban has been swift. The Taliban’s advances are unlikely to stop while Pakistan continues supplies, support and safe havens on the ground.
Issues for India
- For New Delhi, already countering hostilities at the LAC with China and the LoC with Pakistan, an unfriendly government in Kabul can only complicate its strategic options.
- The Taliban’s control will also mean a bigger hand for the Pakistani to influence outcomes for the country, which will mandate a much smaller role for India, that has won much goodwill over the past 20 years.
- Security of Indian diplomats, personnel and citizens based in Afghanistan has assumed critical importance. Many of them have been flow back to India and diplomatic presence in Afghanistan has been minimised.
- Also, it is unclear, especially in the light of the government’s push for the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) that does not include other persecuted Afghan citizens, whether India will welcome thousands of others, in the manner it did in the past.
- Trade through Afghanistan under a Taliban regime would be routed through Karachi and Gwadar, and the Indian investment in the Chabahar port, meant to circumvent Pakistan, may become unviable.
- There is the threat of growing radicalisation and space for pan-Islamic terror groups in India’s neighbourhood.
Given all these concerns, India has four options, none of which are easy, nor without repercussions.
- Idealism: India can stick to its principle of backing only a democratically-elected government in Kabul, and providing political and humanitarian support while that lasts.
- Support Afghan Military: India can supply the Afghan Military with supplies, including ammunition and air power, possibly via the Iranian route. Taliban has already warned that India would danger consequences if this happened.
- Accelerate Engagement with Taliban: However, this is unlikely to give India much leverage, given the Pakistan factor, as well as the fact that all regional and donor countries have already done so.
- Wait and watch, until the chaos of conflict reveals a winning side, and weigh its options accordingly. This option seems expedient, but it also denies India relevance at the “high table” where Afghanistan’s future is being discussed.
Connecting the dots:
- March 2020: Donald Trump’s Doha Agreement
- March 2021: Joe Biden’s initial Peace Plan
- April 2021: Final Biden’s Plan of US Exit from Afghanistan
- India must directly engage with Taliban 2.0
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