The India-Taliban Rapprochement

By: Mian M. Azan Umer Sraa

Date: 15/01/2023

Elder Afghan leader meets Air Force Brig Gen Scott

India’s Diplomatic Ties with the Taliban

A delegation of senior Indian Officials met the Taliban’s group in Doha discussing Security concerns, Humanitarian Aid, Diplomatic and bilateral relations. Taliban have assured India of not allowing the use of Afghan soil for cross-border terrorism while India is heading up in reopening its Embassy and providing Humanitarian Aid to Afghanistan.  India has long history of countering Talibans since they came in power in 1996. India supported Northern Alliance, assisted Afghan Republic, accused Talibans of harbouring Jihadist Organizations like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohamad, and gravely protested US-Talibans Peace negotiations. This rapprochement marks a radical policy shift of India. However, it raises serious strategic, security and policy concerns for Pakistan and can escalate regional tussle between Pakistan and India.

The reasons behind India’s sudden diplomatic ties with the Taliban

It’s much necessary to delve deeper into the reason as to why suddenly both rivals (India and Taliban) are on a Diplomatic table and that where do the interests of both parties coincide. Firstly, it’s pertinent to realize that Taliban are diplomatically isolated, and none of the countries have officially recognized them. They are struggling hard to achieve international recognition. Taliban’s policymakers realize India’s prominent position in international arena and understand how India can help them in getting out of this isolation. If India recognizes Taliban’s Government in Afghanistan, it can lead to a ‘domino effect’ and can enhance Taliban’s leverage in pursuit of their international recognition. Taliban’s government seems to catch this opportunity.

Secondly, India might be exploiting the relationship gap between Pakistan and Taliban. India accuses Pakistan of pursuing policy of ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan – a claim which Pakistan’s military denies. Pakistan’s relationship with Taliban have recently soured over the issue of Durand Line and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The recent killing of Ayman Al-Zawahiri through a US drone attack can also raise doubts among Taliban that Pakistan has assisted in conducting the attack and might raise their apprehensions regarding Pakistan-US alliance. India cashed this opportunity and instantly engaged in building diplomatic ties with Taliban.

Thirdly, India seems to acknowledge the fact that pursuing an Anti-Taliban policy for counter-terrorism purposes is no longer feasible. Taliban, now, hold absolute sovereignty over their territory and shall not allow any direct airstrikes by India in countering militant Groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad – as India has claimed several times that the Afghan soil is being used by these militant groups for training and propagating cross-border terrorism. India, now, believes that the counter-terrorism campaign can’t be effective without Taliban’s support and that collaboration with them is the need of hour.

Fourthly, and importantly, Talibans believe that establishing diplomatic relations with India can revive the economic projects initiated by India during Ashraf Ghani’s government and can also bring further investment and much needed humanitarian aid.

The implications for Pakistan

The reasons elaborated above create a win-win situation for both and stimulates a bilateral interest coalition between the two that may intensively warm up with time. The situation is too much apprehensive for Pakistan and demands a far-sighted and a moderated policy approach. Pakistan has two options: either escalate regional tensions by pursuing a policy of antagonizing Taliban against India or take the situation as normal to build up regional harmony by enhancing regional connectivity. Whatever path the Policy makers tread, they should consider Pakistan’s security, economic and strategic concerns with apprehension.

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