By Masom Jan Masomy
Last week India’s External Affairs Mnister, S Jaishankar confirmed deploying diplomats in its embassy in Kabul, a significant success of India’s foreign policy towards Afghanistan under Taliban rule. This is somewhat that India continues slowly to find a diplomatic foothold in Kabul in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan in the way that the Taliban have assured India to provide strong security for the India mission.
With taking the power Taliban in August 2021, India closed the embassy in Kabul and all four consulates in Afghanistan, which was considered a major setback for India in Afghanistan. Other regional countries such as China, Russia, Iran, and Pakistan left the embassies open to engaging with the Taliban.
Such an engagement of regional and western countries, including the international community, with the Taliban aimed to discuss security and economic situations and coordinate humanitarian assistance for the Afghan people. Still, India pursued a wait-and-watch approach for almost a year. There were already backchannels between the two sides, particularly in Doha. According to unconfirmed reports, an Indian delegation had also visited Kabul in February to assess the situation in Afghanistan closely.
Additionally, to remain in the game, India also hosted limited events of regional countries regarding Afghanistan’s impasse after the Taliban takeover. The Indian position was clear; India did not want to support any anti-Taliban groups in Afghanistan, but it had security concerns.
This approach of India was successful in sending signals to the Taliban regime that India wants an inclusive system to ensure the rights of women and human rights, as well as a peaceful Afghanistan not to become a haven for terrorism but to become a hub for trade and energy transit in the region.
In the meantime, India, to continue its influence, began dispatching 50,000 metric tonnes of wheat through overland Pakistan, 13 tonne of medicines, 500,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine and winter clothing via air flights to Afghanistan, as well as one million doses of Covid-19 vaccines for Afghan refugees in Iran as part of humanitarian aid to the Afghan people to provide help in the time of need. It showed India’s leverage back in the play and was appreciated by both Taliban and the people of Afghanistan.
Afghanistan is a place the history never ends; it repeats, and every new great game appears after a phase of time. Given this fact, great powers always make efforts to play an influential role. To that end, Afghanistan is more important for India to ensure its security and strategic interests. Therefore, an engagement was needed with the Taliban by India on key dimensions like security concerns, human rights, counter-terrorism and Afghan soil that should not be used against India.
On the other hand, the Taliban reportedly requested India to return its diplomatic mission to Kabul, and they would provide complete security. This can allow India to recover from the strained relations with the Taliban. Furthermore, by entering friendly relations with Afghanistan under Taliban rule, India can benefit from its influence to contain the China-Pakistan danger nexus after the fall of the western-backed Afghan government.
The India delegation visit to Kabul in June led by joint secretary JP Singh was a milestone achievement both for India and the Taliban, and the Taliban foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi called it a “good beginning.” He raised the Afghanistan Islamic Emirate’s interest in reopening India’s consulates and embassy in Kabul.
So, this reprochement of India and Afghanistan is a time-needed subject that caused to send a technical team to Kabul and the following a batch of diplomats so as to re-initiate her diplomatic activities progressively.
The outreach of India to the Taliban or vice-versa is not astonishing since India and Afghanistan have historic and civilizational relations known as the ‘Indo-Afghan’ friendship; it needs to be strengthened further, even under the Taliban reign.
Moreover, India has played a positive role within the past twenty years, particularly in the reconstruction of Afghanistan, funding almost $3bn in social, cultural, and economic projects with the creation of a positive image in Afghan society. Given this context, the Taliban are also seeking financial support to reconstruct Afghanistan. India can quickly meet their economic hopes to play an essential portion in the stability and prosperity of Afghanistan.
At last, over the presence of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), it is estimated that the Taliban and Pakistan relations may go into instability because Pakistan authorities are unhappy with the Taliban not taking severe actions against TTP in Afghanistan.
In particular, the peace talks between Pakistan and TTP mediated by Afghan Taliban in Kabul have been unsuccessful, and there is the feasibility of tensions between Pakistan and Taliban. India, thereby, can explore further possibilities in Afghanistan to revive its crucial presence in Afghanistan. And, the public opinion of Afghan people is already more optimistic about India than Pakistan. Both sides are expected to take concerted strides to make bold relationships due to the ground facts.
The author is Masom Jan Masomy, Assistant Professor at the Centre for Regional Studies, Afghanistan Academy of Sciences, Kabul. He writes on Afghanistan, Central Asia and South Asia Affairs.
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