All our fears became true, as we guessed the Taliban captured Afghanistan. Most of the areas in Afghanistan were captured by the Taliban without firing a single bullet. Most of the democratic countries in the world were supporting Ghani's government against the Taliban. Taliban's control over Afghanistan is a big failure for the USA and its allies. For India, It's a tough time, and we need to see how India responds to the present situation and what will be the Indian policy.
For now, New Delhi only concentrated on the evacuation of Indians from Afghanistan. China, Pakistan and Russia have been supporting the Taliban for a long time. As Pakistan's premier intelligence agency, ISI, was instrumental in creating the Afghan Taliban, they are happy with the recent developments. It is a big failure for the Biden government and shows the deterioration of the USA as a superpower country. Many of us expected that the collapse of the Ghani government might be within one to two years after the withdrawal of the US army. But no one expected that a collapse would happen in a few days. It shows the big failure of the USA intelligence and Afghan army.
As prime minister Narendra Modi said, "Empires of terror may dominate for some time but not forever." If the Taliban want to rule the Afghan nation for a long time and want them to be recognised by the international community, they should run the country peacefully without violence. They need to ensure the right to equality, freedom for women, implementation of fundamental rights and refine their sharia laws according to the modern world. No country will recognise the Taliban government until it rules Afghanistan peacefully and democratically. It's not easy for the Taliban to hold the country for a longer time. There are many local militant groups it has to fight in the country. Though the Taliban assured the USA in the Doha deal that they would not allow foreign terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda and ISIS, still countering those terrorist groups may not be easy for the Taliban.
Since 2001, the Afghan government provided millions of jobs to the locals, including around 2,20,000 government school teachers and approximately 4,50,000 government employees in various departments. Out of them, 20 per cent are women. In addition to them, nearly 3,00,000 military personnel have been employed. Now all their jobs and their dependents are uncertain and have to depend on the new government. Any Afghan government cannot sustain itself without foreign donations for the smooth functioning of government schools and providing health services to its citizens, and it's not exceptional for the new Taliban government. Seventy-five per cent of the Afghan budget is from foreign donations, including $4 billion US and NATO for the Afghan army.
After the Taliban insurgency, the USA immediately froze $9.5 billion to Afghan, IMF blocked $450 million access. An immediate squeeze of western donations may disturb the Taliban government to pay salaries to its employees, continuing welfare schemes started in the previous government, leading to high inflation. Now the biggest question is who will be their new donors? The new donors could be China, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Russia and Pakistan. But with the new foreign donations, can Taliban's rule the nation is another question.
From a Chinese perspective, it's a good sign for China to counter the USA in South Asia. Now China aims to protect its western Xinjiang from the Anti-Beijing East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), mainly based in Afghanistan. China also tries to make opportunities in minerals rich in Afghanistan and will try to deepen its penetration into Iran, Pakistan and Central Asia. Though Russia has not recognised the Taliban's regime so far, it's in talks with the Taliban. Russia may use the Taliban as a tool to control Central Asia. It's a big challenge for central Asian countries to counter local militant groups and migrations from Afghanistan. For now, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan already have ties with the Taliban, but we have to see how it will be in the future.
All our Indian efforts to rebuild Afghanistan almost went in vain. Since 2001, India has spent 3 billion dollars in Afghanistan. India has built parliament, dams, roads, clinics, hundreds of schools and power lines in Afghanistan. India gave scholarships to thousands of Afghan students. India also trained many Afghan military officers, government executives, including women. In 2015, India donated three Mi-25 attack helicopters to the Afghan government to counter the Taliban. As no other democratic force is an alternative to the Taliban in Afghanistan, India needs to start negotiations with the Taliban to ensure the fundamental rights to the citizens of Afghanistan, minority rights. India also needs to pressure the Taliban on Kashmir and Pakistan with the support of the International community. At the same time, negotiations with the Taliban do not mean recognising the Taliban government.
In the initial days of Modi's government, many diplomats were worried about India's relations with Gulf countries as they were tilted towards Pakistan, but the Modi government succeeded in handling the gulf countries. Similarly, if the Taliban wants to take Afghanistan in a developmental way, it has to bypass Pakistan and should respect Indian priorities.
In conclusion, the Taliban government may acknowledge some flexibility and inclusivity in their governance for convincing the international community for some time, but in a longer time, commitment to their new governance model may be troublesome given their ideology. At this time, it's too early to speak on Taliban governance and the outcome of the situation.
(The writer is a research scholar-IIT Varanasi, alumnus-IIT Madras.)
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