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Saturday 23rd October 2021 / 17 Rabiulawal 1443

India-Taliban relations

After taking control of Kabul, the Taliban have claimed the right to raise a voice for Muslims anywhere, including Kashmir. This places them directly at loggerheads with India, who has been one of the most vociferous opponents of the hardliner’s rule in Afghanistan.

The Taliban said they do not have a policy to raise arms against any other country, but can raise their voice for Muslims in Indian-held Kashmir and anywhere else. India has cast doubt on the new regime in Kabul but the Taliban has responded that India will soon know the Taliban’s capability to run things smoothly. The Taliban have warned India from interfering in Afghanistan, maintaining that they wanted peaceful ties with all countries.

Analysts are unanimous that the Taliban’s takeover has severely hurt Indian interests in Afghanistan. Pakistan has expressed relief that India will now be unable to use Afghan soil for any subversive activities. India has closed all diplomatic embassies and evacuated its citizens since the Taliban swept to power. It now faces the difficult decision to recognize the new regime and the way forward.

Amid the crisis, India has held its first formal diplomatic interaction with the Taliban in Doha. The Taliban want India to complete the development projects in Afghanistan. India has invested $3bn in multiple development and infrastructure projects but the recent shift in power has left New Delhi in a tough state. India’s outreach to the Taliban can be viewed more as a necessity and India could move forward for engagement just to maintain regional hegemony.

Nevertheless, India has been one of the most disadvantaged players as the Taliban’s return to power has been a major diplomatic setback. For the past 20 years, India attempted to gain a foothold in Afghanistan and used it as a proxy for terror activities against Pakistan. Now, Indian diplomacy is non-existent and it seems to be completely out of the game.

The Taliban are expected to announce a new government soon and regional powers such as China, Russia, Iran, and even Pakistan could recognize them to secure their interests. As unpalatable as a choice it may be, India will have no option but to engage with the Taliban. The failure to do so will make it the biggest loser from the Afghan conflict.

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