The Afghan Quagmire

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TTP, which was established in 2007, has grown to become the most dangerous, influential, and anti-Pakistan group in South Asia. The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Pakistani government’s continuing negotiations, which were supposed to find a political solution to the problem, have reached a standstill and are not moving further. The Afghan Taliban had requested the discussions, which led to a truce in November 2021. The ceasefire is under a great deal of strain. The release of inmates implicated in terrorist acts was the TTP’s initial demand. Despite promises and concessions made on this and previous occasions, the proscribed organisation insisted on having the former Federally Administrative Tribal Area (FATA) separated from the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In the event of a peace agreement, TTP also refuses to disarm. Nearly no progress has been made. Analysts believe that the chances of a peace agreement are slim.

One year later, there has been a paradigm shift in the dynamics of the interactions between the Afghan Taliban, India, and Pakistan. I discussed the change with Pakistan in one of my earlier posts from July 3, 2022, titled “The Honeymoon is over,” and in this piece, I’ll focus on the Taliban’s ties with India. India’s position on how to interact with the new Afghan administration appears to have changed. As the US withdrew, the troops India had supported in Afghanistan for years—forces firmly opposed to the Taliban—were losing territory, and the situation there was anything but favourable for India. The Taliban was able to expand its influence in Afghanistan and establish itself as the face of the government while the US was negotiating its withdrawal from the country.
India has begun taking the first few cautious steps toward adjusting to the new ground realities, including reopening its embassy in Kabul on June 23 to organise humanitarian relief. Many people consider the series of public actions taken by both India and the Taliban to foster their relationship to be a startling development, especially because Pakistan is both held accountable for and the target of punitive diplomatic measures because of its alliance with the Taliban.

India has deftly inserted itself at a time when Pakistan’s expectations regarding the Taliban’s stance on several topics, including the Durand Line, are at odds with reality. The Taliban are also openly shielding and defending TTP while also turning a blind eye to the ongoing attacks coming from Afghanistan against Pakistan. Indian politicians are currently taking advantage of these rifts between the two neighbours to examine possible alliances with the Taliban. This is also predicated on at least two facts: India has acknowledged and accepted the new reality on the ground in Afghanistan, and it no longer views the Taliban as solely Pakistan’s proxies, a notion that the Afghan Taliban are also extremely anxious to change.

The Taliban’s economic suffering is another important aspect that has sparked this convergence; any assistance is more than welcome. Before the Taliban took power, India had made up to $3 billion in investments in Afghanistan and was involved in a strategic development partnership with that nation. In the crucial fields of power, water supply, road connections, health care, education, agriculture, and capacity building, this alliance was stretched across 500 projects and 34 provinces. These investments were made after the US overthrew the first Taliban rule in 2001.
The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan won’t lead to Indian investment evaporating, according to Aparna Pande, director of the Hudson Institute Initiative on the Future of India and South Asia. When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, India’s relationship with the nation was mostly based on its backing of the anti-Taliban opposition. After the Taliban’s defeat, New Delhi made a major effort to strengthen its position there. As a result, it frequently used its strategic foothold in Afghanistan against Pakistan. Like the considerable financial aid, there were several political and strategic requirements.

In 2011, India and Afghanistan also agreed to a strategic cooperation pact, as part of which India provided military assistance to Afghanistan. India is preparing to develop Afghanistan once more, even if it means cooperating with a group that it has long despised. When discussing the dynamics between India and the Afghan Taliban, Asfandyar Mir, a specialist in international relations and counterterrorism at the US Institute of Peace, said that it looks like the Indian government has now turned to the Taliban. We need to discuss these worries about terrorism if you want a connection with us, he continued. In response, the Taliban have given assurances that they will not permit the use of Afghan land against India, similar to those they have given to the US government and Pakistan. The Taliban are also claiming to be prepared to strike based on any intelligence the Indians may supply.

“Delhi’s ties with the Taliban have become possible because of the latter’s willingness to protect India’s interests, including taking steps against anti-Indian groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed,” a Pakistani diplomat who wishes to remain unnamed but is familiar with these developments, was cited as saying.

It’s amazing to see how pragmatic both India and the Taliban are becoming in their current effort to mend fences. Thoughtful consideration should be given to the ideological disparities between the two parties as well as the Taliban’s capacity to keep their word to India. Ayman Al-Presence Zawahiri’s in Kabul led to a US effort to have him killed.

Pakistan has frequently said that as long as Pakistan’s sensibilities are not violated, they now see, perceive, and conduct their relations with Afghanistan on an independent foundation. Despite their promises, the Afghan Taliban may turn Afghanistan back into a refuge for foreign terrorist organisations, according to international observers. This is feared by several periphery states, including India and Pakistan. As long as the connection is not exploited to take advantage of Pakistan’s weaknesses, nobody in Pakistan has anything against the Taliban interacting with India or any other nation.

The first US drone strike following its pull-out in August 2021 occurred on July 31, 2022, when Al Qaeda leader Zawahiri was assassinated in a “precise” hit in Kabul’s city centre. Once more, there is concern that Pakistan will pay for this strike. It also reignites the long-simmering arguments about whether or not to remove US troops from Afghanistan and how to deal with the Taliban government.

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