Bhishma, the warrior custodian of the blind king of Hastinapur, i.e. Delhi went to the king of Kandahar i.e. Afghanistan to ask for the hand of his beautiful daughter Gandhari for the blind king Dhritrashtra. The King of Kandahar Subala was initially reluctant to marry his daughter to a blind king, but Gandhari realized that the refusal to marry Dhritrashtra might result in the complete subjugation of their tiny kingdom to the mighty kingdom of Hastinapur. So she gave her consent, but her brother Shakuni could never forget this injustice and came along to Hastinapur to plot for the destruction of the mighty Kuru-Pandav dynasty. Now circa 2021, though the USA like Bhishma, which tried to reform Afghanistan over a period of twenty years, the modern-day Shakuni in the form of Taliban, along with the enemies are plotting against India.
Since ancient times, Afghanistan neither culturally nor emotionally has ever been a single nation and coupled with its complex topography, has created a huge cultural divide across the region. Its strategic location along the silk route brought cultures from different countries that further facilitated cultural Balkanisation. This also brought economic development in the region attracting infamous attackers, such as Mahmoud of Ghazni, Alexander the Great, Genghis khan, Babur, Nadir Shah etc., who introduced different faith, ethnicity, traditions, languages over the portion they ruled. These continuous invasions not only made the economic condition of the locals abysmal but also prevented the sentiment of “One nation”. The absence of this nationalism is one of the major reasons behind the Afghan army giving up so easily in front of the Taliban, who are united through a thread of extremism.
The manner in which the Afghan national forces surrendered has astonished all the experts of warfare. The sight of Taliban fighters playing with American black hawk helicopters and practising their skills on highly sophisticated equipment and weaponry left behind by American and Afghan national forces is scary. Afghanistan shares its largest international boundary with Pakistan and the establishment of another Islamic emirate in its immediate backyard is a threat to India’s national security and secular fabric. Many hardliners in our country have welcomed the rise of the Taliban and are encouraged by the meek surrender of the USA to Taliban forces, emboldening them to a great extent. Taliban represents the medieval version of Islam and the strict implementation of the Shariah laws of justice. Many people argue that this Taliban is different from the Taliban of the 1990s but there cannot be “A good death” or “A bad death”.
India has to adopt a wait and watch policy. The most important lesson learnt is not to be dependent on any foreign power for tackling the Afghanistan problem. If Taliban governs Afghanistan like a country and not as a conglomeration of medieval tribes, then it has to maintain some kind of sanity in its relations with the Afghan people and its immediate neighbours. Pakistan is already overjoyed with the success of its Taliban sheltering strategy but it has created a Frankenstein monster. A confrontation between the Pakistan military and the Taliban is very likely to happen.
Afghanistan is known as the graveyard of empires of the world. The great Alexander had to invest three years of his life trying to maintain control and failed miserably. The USSR which is responsible for the birth of the Taliban also retreated after a prolonged and tiring battle. If we learn by history, Afghanistan is a country that is “easy to conquer” but “difficult to govern”. With so many independent tribal chieftains and warlords and the economy sustained by the illegal production of opium, there are so many permutations and combinations in Afghanistan mathematics that it is impossible to arrive at a definite formula of success.
A section of the Afghan population are now exposed to modern education, and a new way of life, have become qualified professionals and women are participating in economic activities. As the dust settles on the Hindukush mountains and they withstand the initial shock of Taliban occupation, the demand for the restoration of their normal lives under the new dispensation shall follow. This will result in a lot of civil unrest which if suppressed violently by the Taliban will have serious international repercussions. So far Russia and China have maintained a strategic silence in world diplomacy and have even abstained from voting against a proposal on Afghanistan in the UNSC. How long can the world remain a silent spectator is a question every civilized country would have to answer.
In the long run, Taliban cannot neglect a trusted friend like India which has helped a lot in rebuilding Afghanistan. Our old and traditional ties are reflected from the images of Bamiyan buddhas and act as a guiding lighthouse to the Afghanistan ship which is in a stage of breaking up. The US which was looking for a graceful exit from Afghanistan has been rendered stunned by the developments in Afghanistan. The formation of the interim ministry comprising some of the most wanted terrorists and the selection of 9/11 as the date of their official swearing in, the ban on peaceful rallies in Afghanistan and the continuous assertion of Islamic supremacy are all areas of concern for the World.
Countries like China, Russia and Pakistan who are falsely assuming that they will be able to tame the Taliban and utilize its services for their strategic and geopolitical interests must take a leaf from Indian mythology and the story of Bhasmasur. Bhasmasur was granted a wish by the Lord Shiva that he would be able to burn anyone to ashes upon whom he places his hand. Later, Bhasmasur tried to burn Lord Shiva! Similarly, one day the Taliban with its dream of uniting Muslims of the world will become a threat not only for India or USA but for the entire humanity.
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