Afghanistan has seen many ups and down since August 2021 when Taliban took over Kabul and announced Islamic caliphate in the country. Things have changed drastically in Afghanistan under the reins of Taliban, who are facing resistance from international community for the implementation of Islamic rule across the country.
Owing to these developments, many Afghans preferred to leave the country instead of staying in Afghanistan. Women are also facing existential issues as they are not allowed to work and study properly under so-called Islamic rulers. Not only this, Taliban are yet to get global recognition.
Even countries such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Russia have not extended recognition to Afghanistan and wisely announced that recognizing Taliban regime in Kabul should be based on global and regional consensus. India, who had been acting as strategic partner of Afghanistan under previous two regimes, has refused to engage and recognize Afghan Taliban’s government. The Modi government even refused to accept Taliban’s new Afghan diplomat in New Delhi. However, it has recently opened back channel engagements with Afghan Taliban in order to pursue its strategic depth policy in South Asia.
India has spent tremendous diplomatic energy and financial resources in developing cordial ties with Afghanistan over the last so many decades. Ever since the fall of the Taliban regime in late 2001, India has turned out to be a formidable financial and humanitarian assistance provider to Afghanistan. All the goodwill India garnered in Afghanistan over the last two decades risks being lost if prompt action is not taken by New Delhi to engage with the Taliban. For instance, thousands of Afghan citizens who had been provided scholarships by the Indian government to study in India continue to remain disenchanted with the Indian Government’s Afghan strategy. These students cannot return to India simply because they are unable to get hold of a visa. Had the Indian embassy been reopened, even with limited capacity, these students would have returned to India to complete their studies.
Besides, engaging with the Taliban does not mean an endorsement of their worldview. Rather, through the route of engagement, India, or for that matter, other countries as well, can partake in reviving the development processes in Afghanistan. Successive Indian governments have been supporting Ghani-Karzai regimes and using them to accomplish its strategic as well as political objectives. s
Engaging with the Taliban can also prove instrumental in preparing the ground for a broad-based government, which the international community sees as a respectable approach to ensure the participation of other ethnic groups in the decision-making processes in Afghanistan. Pakistan has on its part played pivotal and positive role in bringing stability and peace in Afghanistan. It facilitated peace talks between warring factions in order to avoid bloodshed in the country.
Likewise, Pakistan must, individually, and as part of regional groupings like SAARC and Shanghai Cooperation Organization, try to facilitate dialogue with the Taliban so that enough leverage is exerted on them for the inclusion of representatives belonging to minority ethnic factions within its government. The formation of a broad-based and inclusive government in Afghanistan forms an essential part of the joint declaration issued at the end of the SCO summit held in Uzbekistan on September 15–16, 2022. In this regard, Pakistan has been working together with other like-minded states so that a regional framework for engaging with the Taliban regime can be worked out so that Afghanistan can be secured from falling into yet another phase of conflict and turmoil.
The Taliban have been repeatedly signaling to India that they want to have an independent foreign policy and want to engage with India without any interference from any other country including Pakistan. New Delhi’s outreach will not mean recognition but shows that India is willing to give the Taliban some level of support and engage with them at a very basic level to see how far the Taliban are willing to engage with India more substantively.
Likewise, there is a sense within Indian security corridors that New Delhi cannot continue to engage the Taliban for long without tangible returns. This might include an agreement that the group should not be sending fighters to Kashmir region to fuel unrest. This is a major security concern for India. India’s outreach to the Taliban stems from a sense that it can regain its foothold in Afghanistan, especially in light of Pakistan’s struggles. New Delhi is also positioning itself as a benefactor for Afghanistan at a time when the world’s attention is on the war in Ukraine