India To Join Other Powers In Engaging The Taliban – Analysis


The closure of the embassy that represented the Ashraf Ghani regime paves the way for engagement  

With the closure of the Afghan embassy in New Delhi that had represented the ousted Ashraf Ghani government, India is now giving “de facto” if not “de jure” recognition to the Taliban regime in Kabul, says Talmiz Ahmad, retired Indian Ambassador and expert on West Asia. 

India will be joining other powers in engaging the Taliban and the closure of the embassy that represented the Ashraf Ghani regime will pave the way for engagement. 

Ambassador Ahmad is hopeful about good relations between India and the Taliban, saying that the Taliban would welcome the prospect of better relations. 

But “de jure” recognition of the Taliban regime is still a bridge too far as the Taliban is continuing to spurn the conditions laid down by the international community.    

Be that as it may, despite the recalcitrance of the Taliban, major regional and world powers have been interacting with their regime in Kabul. In this respect, they are streets ahead of India. 

These countries, and the UN too, have been actively participating in international conferences and forums discussing various issues relating to Afghanistan through the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). The UN is pumping humanitarian aid besides keeping a close watch on developments in Afghanistan over a wide variety of parameters.

China, Russia, the EU, and even the US (to some extent) are among the entities interacting with the Kabul regime.

If India puts its heart and soul into an engagement with the Taliban regime, it can do a lot as it did when it had good relations with the Hamid Karzai and Ashraf Ghani governments. Indian investments totalled US$ 3 billion. As in the past, India could say that it is for the common man in Afghanistan and not for any particular party or government in Kabul. 

China’s close engagement with Afghanistan, which is in India’s backyard, has been a wake-up call for India. Being an ally of the US,  India has been reluctant to enter into a formal and sustained engagement with the Kabul regime. Like the US it has cited the absence of an inclusive government and women’s rights to justify its aloofness. 

According to Ambassador Talmiz Ahmad, India has been unsure about the Taliban’s hold over Afghanistan, the unity of its leadership, and the overall security situation under Taliban rule. But the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres and India’s geopolitical rival, China, have a more favourable view of Taliban-helmed Afghanistan.

China continues to have a full-fledged Ambassador in Kabul, unlike India which withdrew its Ambassador and has only some officials there, and that too “primarily to keep an eye on what is happening in Afghanistan” as Ambassador Ahmed put it. 

UN Secretary General Guterres said in his September report, that the level of violence had come down in Afghanistan; that Taliban were in full control and that their Supreme Leader’s writ ran in the organization and the State apparatus as well.

In the report on the work of UNAMA, Guterres said that “Afghanistan continued to show significantly reduced levels of armed conflict and some macroeconomic progress compared with the previous reporting period,” though human rights violations, lack of ethnic inclusivity and suppression of women and girl children continued. 

The number of attacks claimed by or attributed to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant-Khorasan (ISIL-K) had decreased, as did armed clashes and detonations of improvised explosive devices. 

“At two years in power, the Taliban de facto administration remained firmly in control of the country and focused on further building what it describes as an Islamic system,” the Secretary General said. 

“While edicts attributed to the Taliban leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada, continued to be issued from Kandahar, administrative decisions, especially regarding economic issues, were taken in Kabul, which is also the centre for diplomatic and security functions. On occasion, the de facto Cabinet or parts of it were summoned to Kandahar, where administrative decisions were reportedly reviewed by the Taliban leader. In meetings with UNAMA, the de facto authorities maintained political unity. 

While serving as acting Prime Minister and thereafter as Deputy Prime Minister, Abdul Kabir had publicly conducted around 60 outreach activities with a wide range of community representatives and officials. 

During engagements with UNAMA, senior interlocutors in the Taliban government continued to urge patience while a solution was being worked out for girls’ education which now stops at Grade 6. Girls’ education is an internal matter that no outsider can influence it, the Taliban says. The regime claims that 23.4% of civil servants are women. 

Armed clashes decreased by 67%, from 104 to 34 incidents; suicide attacks increased from one to two; detonations from improvised explosive devices decreased by 81% from 59 to 11 incidents; arrests increased by 4.5% from 375 to 392; and assassinations decreased by 35% from 56 to 36. 

Between 20 May and 31 July, the United Nations recorded 5 attacks by ISIL-K in three provinces, compared with 34 attacks in eight provinces during the same period in 2022.

Armed opposition groups’ attacks against the Taliban government’s security forces continued during the reporting period, with 42 attacks in 12 provinces claimed by the National Resistance Front, the Afghanistan Liberation Movement and the Afghanistan Freedom Front. 

The authorities continued to report weapons seizures and the taking of steps to control weaponry.

On 18 July, de facto authorities signed a tripartite agreement in Islamabad with officials from Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan for the trans-Afghan railroad project. On 19 July, the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council and of the Central Asia countries gathered for a joint summit where they discussed, among other topics, the construction of a trans-Afghan railway. 

On 13 June, liquefied petroleum gas exports from the Russian Federation reached Pakistan for the first time, travelling from the Russian Federation to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan by rail and through the Tor Kham crossing in Nangarhar Province in Afghanistan by truck.

On 24 June, Taliban government’s Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Ghani Baradar announced the approval by the National Transit Committee of a plan to transport gas and oil by way of shipments of liquified gas by truck from Turkmenistan to Pakistan through Afghanistan for a “trial period”.

Bilateral engagements focused primarily on economic issues, including trade and connectivity. On 11 July, the Special Envoy for Afghanistan of Uzbekistan, Esmatullah Ergashev, met with the Provincial Governor of Balkh, Yusuf Wafa, in Mazar-e Sharif to discuss economic relations. The Minister for Commerce and Industry, Nooruddin Azizi, attended the fourteenth Russia-Islamic World Forum in the Russian Federation on 18 May and visited Kazakhstan for a three-day business fair and forum from 3 to 5 August.

On 30 June, Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Salam Hanafi and the Minister for Defence, Mohammad Yaqoub Omar, met with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. On 30 and 31 July, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Amir Khan Motaqi, met with a high-level United States delegation in Doha, including the Special Representative for Afghanistan, Thomas West and the Special Envoy for Afghan Women, Girls and Human Rights, and Rina Amiri. 

According to the 31 July edition of the World Bank’s publication entitled “Afghanistan Economic Monitor”, which is issued monthly, macroeconomic performance remained relatively robust during the reporting period

Gender Injustice

But persecution of women continues. Incidents of violence against women and girls, including murder, honour killings, forced marriages and beatings causing injuries or disabilities, as well as reports of women and girls dying by suicide, were also reported. 

Some 71% reported that their feelings of anxiety, isolation and depression had become significantly worse over the past three months – an increase from 57 per cent in the preceding quarterly survey. Some 49% of respondents warned that recognition of the Taliban government by the UN should only occur under specific conditions related to women’s rights, and 47 per cent argued that recognition should not be granted under any circumstances, the Secretary General’s report said.

P. K. Balachandran

P. K. Balachandran is a senior Indian journalist working in Sri Lanka for local and international media and has been writing on South Asian issues for the past 21 years.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *