ISSN 2330-717X

Evolving Interests In Afghanistan – OpEd

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In international relations, there are no permanent enemies and no permanent friends, only “permanent interests.” Every country changes its policy time to time according to its own interest with other countries.  

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No country can deny the importance of Afghanistan for the region. Afghanistan is termed the ‘heart of Asia’, connecting different regions, especially Central Asia, via Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, South Asia via Pakistan and the Middle East, via Iran. Afghanistan is rich in hidden minerals. The country has “60 million tons of copper, 2.2 million tons of iron ore, 1.4 million tons of rare earth elements such as lanthanum, cerium and neodymium, and lodes of aluminum, gold, silver, zinc, mercury, lithium” as described in the geological survey of the United States. The country is sitting over 3 trillion dollar mineral resources.  Afghanistan produces 90% of the world’s opium and is also a leading hashish producer. The drug trade has become one of the main pillars of the Afghan economy accounting for 16% of GDP and involving 5% of the population. 

Sooner or later world will recognize Taliban regime in Afghanistan because world knows that Taliban are reality and table talks are the way forward. Any country who wants to do trade and amend the bilateral ties with Afghanistan needs to sit with Taliban government.

Indian officials have long expected and accepted that the United States could not stay in Afghanistan forever. Twenty years is a long time. They are disappointed, however, at what they see as inadequate planning and preparation. Neither India nor other regional powers (nor U.S. officials, for that matter) expected to see the Taliban take control of so many districts and border crossings so rapidly.

“A little over 10 months after the Taliban seized power in Kabul and India subsequently shut its mission down, New Delhi deployed a “technical team” consisting of diplomats and others to the Afghan capital to “closely monitor and coordinate” the delivery of humanitarian assistance there, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement on 23rd June 2022.” India’s announcement was welcomed by the Taliban government, which said it demonstrates the country’s security situation.

New Delhi does not officially recognize the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. However, its officials have engaged with the Taliban in recent months. India opened channels of communication with the Taliban publicly on 31 August 2021, when the Indian Ambassador to Qatar, Deepak Mittal, met Stanikzai, then the head of Taliban’s Political Office in Doha. Eventually, Russia played a central role when Moscow invited India to sit around a table along with other regional stakeholders to discuss the way forward in Afghanistan. 

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Over the past two decades India has invested around $3 billion in Afghanistan’s infrastructure, capacity building, and more. Thousands of Afghan students have studied in Indian institutes and universities on Government of India scholarships and many times that number come to India for medical treatment. India is now looking to re-open its mission in Afghanistan in a limited manner to facilitate aid and consular services in the future.

 If India halts its capacity building and development work in Afghanistan. It would not only hurt its own decades-long effort to build influence and goodwill in the country but also, this would impact the lives and livelihoods of thousands of Afghan youth and especially women. Shutting down this work is therefore simply not an option. India also wishes to resume its projects in Afghanistan which were under process during former Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani Regime.

Engagement and interaction at specific levels for New Delhi with the Taliban is unavoidable and a need of great importance for its own international and vital interests. India will therefore have to hold its nose and engage with the Taliban government. It does not mean India is ready to recognize Taliban Regime but it indicates that New Delhi is willing to deal with Taliban for its own interest. But this time advantage is on the Pakistani side with current Taliban Regime. 

Ahsan Zaheer is a freelance Journalist and a researcher. 

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