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Time to Talk With Taliban

WebdeskJul 28, 2021, 05:42 PM IST

Time to Talk With Taliban

Dr Ambikesh Kumar Tripathi


India never supports non-state actors but in the present situation, it is necessary that peace must be established in Afghanistan. Since India's national interests are at stake in that Islamic republic, it would be better to call the Taliban officials and elected government of the Afghan for  negotiation 


With the withdrawal of US-led NATO forces from Afghanistan, the Taliban is gaining strength in the conflict-prone country. The insurgent force has captured the exit points over Amu Darya to neighbouring Tajikistan and girdled the border areas of major cities and strategic highways in the country. While the Afghan security forces are placing a heroic fight against the Taliban insurgents, many provinces of the country are either in the Taliban's control or have a strong presence over there. The reincarnation of the Taliban (Taliban 2.0) would have a serious impact on global peace, security and tranquillity; the South Asian region might have been the most affected. 

Is Exit a Smart Strategy  

On September 11, 2021, it would be the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack on America; President Biden will withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan in a couple of months. NATO forces were providing security to the Afghan people from the Taliban insurgents for the last 20 years; the sudden exit of NATO troops is creating chaos and the Taliban is becoming powerful since the process of institutionalisation and democratisation have not been adequately accomplished in the country. 

Different strategic scholars and institutions have different viewpoints on the exit of US-led NATO forces from Afghanistan. Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow of Brookins, sees the Biden administration's decision to withdraw all the US troops from Afghanistan as a wise decision; though, she is anxious about the political stability of Afghanistan after exit and writes that “Unfortunately, an intensified and potentially highly fragmented and bloody civil war may take place, and at minimum, the Taliban’s ascendance to formal power will bring painful changes to the country’s political dispensation.” She also writes that since it has lost the capacity to alter the basic political and military dynamics in Afghanistan, perpetuating the US forces there was unnecessary. 

Biden’s administration predicts that staying in Afghanistan could push them back into the war with the Taliban and it was not in the national interest. Strategic specialist Brahma Chellaney criticises the US withdrawal and questioning Biden’s arguments – “US did not go to Afghanistan to nation-build” and “staying would have meant US troops taking causalities” – it is Afghans who are really in jeopardy. Further, he says the US is leaving Afghans at the mercy of a marauding Islamist force – one with a long history of savage behaviour.  

The exit of the US troops from Afghanistan could never be a smarter strategy in terms of stability of the democratic government of Afghan and security of her people as well as regional and global peace and security. One can recall what happened after the exit of US forces in 1973 in South Vietnam and in 1975 in Cambodia. The unfinished American war in Afghanistan going to meet the same fate as it was with the previous two.

Worries to Global Security

The Taliban, which is known for its close relationship with al-Qaeda, has been the most lethal terrorist organisation which had once challenged the US hegemony by a terror attack on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon – the headquarters building of the United States Department of Defence. Exacerbating chaos and violence by the Taliban in Afghanistan will have a wider impact on global and regional security and stability. Akin to other Islamic terrorist organisations, The Taliban is also very conservative and against socio-political reforms; their victory in Afghanistan will not only destabilise South Asia but will have a global effect like the rise of Islamic State in Syria. The Taliban will pose challenges to national security to many states like the US, the UK, France, India and Australia because they are capturing the sophisticated weapons used by the US forces. It might provide scope to Pakistan based terrorist organisations to get more strategic gains in the Taliban ruled territories and the state’s security will be hampered as well as human security. 

There are at least three reasons related to peace and development that make Afghanistan vital for India. Firstly, the strategic positioning of Afghanistan matters for India’s security as it opens the door to enter Central Asian Republics (CAR). It is also important in counterbalance to Pakistan and China. India's trade with the CARs flows through the sea lanes of communications of Indian Ocean to Gwadar port, and subsequently on land by the Delaram highway that India has built in Afghanistan, which connects to CAR states. The route also competes with China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and given a boost and necessary political stability along its length, work as an alternative to the BRI.

Secondly, since India has invested a huge amount in developing and reconstructing Afghanistan, a stable and peaceful Afghanistan is in favour of India. It also needs the Afghan people because so far as India's involvement in Afghanistan is concerned, it is humanitarian and constructive. India has constructed major projects including dams, highways and Parliament building along with medical facilities. India is among one of them who trains Afghan forces and also attempts for political change through ballot rather than the bullet. In brief, Indian engagement in Afghanistan with the hope to restore peace would be at stake after the reincarnation of the Taliban. Thirdly, due to peace receding in Afghanistan, India has become home to the Afghan diaspora. But in Taliban 2.0 the illegal migration, like Rohingyas, might take place and if Afghanistan does not remain a stable, open and peaceful country, India will have great trouble in fighting with Islamic extremists. 

Policy Options for India

Afghanistan has been a graveyard of the world's superpowers. It tells us that hard power does not work in Afghanistan. India has limited options of negotiation and persuasion in the present context of rising the Taliban. India never supports such non-state actors but in the present situation, it would be required that peace must be established in Afghanistan. Since India's national interests are at stake in Afghanistan, it would be better to call the Taliban officials and elected government of the Afghan at the table of negotiation. Earlier in the 1990s and 2000s, India was unwaveringly opposed to any dealings with the Taliban insurgents. But by the time her strategy evolved and became pragmatic towards Afghanistan and at the 9th Heart of Asia Conference, which theme was 'Strengthening Consensus for Peace and Development', External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said India has been supportive of all efforts being made to accelerate dialogue between the Afghan government and the Taliban. New Delhi shows her willingness to bring both on the table of talk and bring them on a common programme so that peace and tranquillity could be ensured.

(The writer teaches Peace and Conflict Studies at Mahatma Gandhi Central University, Motihari, Bihar)




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