India's outreach to Taliban

JUN 9

Mains   > International relations   >   India and Neighbours   >   India-Afghanistan

?IN NEWS:

  • India has sent a multi-member team of senior diplomats to Afghanistan for the first time since the arrival of Taliban in the Afghan capital.

INDIA AFGHAN RELATIONSHIP:

  • Afghan’s history: https://ilearncana.com/details/IMPLICATIONS-OF-US-RETREAT-FROM-AFGHAN/2037
  • India has played a significant role in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Afghanistan.
  • However, the Indian Embassy in Kabul was evacuated in August 2021 following the US retreat and the arrival of the Taliban at Kabul.
  • Since then, India has had quiet engagements with the Taliban.
    • Days after the fall of Kabul, India’s ambassador to Qatar met Taliban leader in Doha. The meet was requested by the Taliban, and took place at the Indian embassy.
    • On February 26, 2022, India supplied wheat for the Afghan people by land via Pakistan.
  • The Indian delegation’s visit is the culmination of such quiet engagements with the Taliban.

IMPLICATIONS OF CURRENT OUTREACH:

  • Change in attitude towards Taliban:
    • India’s decision to send a diplomatic delegation shows a marked difference from the policy New Delhi took in the 1990s. Back then, India adopted a policy of disengagement with Kabul and supported anti-Taliban militias.
  • Potential re-establishment of formal relations:
    • The Taliban has asked the delegation to reopen its diplomatic mission in Afghanistan and has committed to provide a secure environment for its functioning. This could lead the way to re-establishing formal ties.
  • Ensure safety to Indian interests:
    • Direct engagement with the Taliban gives an opportunity to convey Indian concerns, especially in areas like connectivity, Indian investments in Afghan, drug trafficking and support for anti-India elements.
  • Continue humanitarian aid:
    • According to the MEA, New Delhi has sent 20,000 metric tonnes of wheat, 13 tonnes of medicines, 500,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines, and winter clothing to Afghanistan. Better relations will enable India to expand the humanitarian aid being provided to the Afghan people.
  • Reaffirm India’s principles:
    • The Indian team included a woman official, which is being interpreted as a subtle reminder to the Taliban to ensure equitable treatment for women in Afghanistan.
  • Avoid being left out of Afghan:
    • The void left by the US is being filled by the Taliban, Pakistan and China, all of which is detrimental to India’s interests. Hence, India needs to maintain a foothold in the region or it faces the possibility of being squeezed out.
  • Taliban need India:
    • The Taliban have also made a concerted outreach to the Indian side. It has described the visit as a “good beginning” and stated that security will be provided if India plans to reopen its embassy and can finish incomplete projects. This is seen as an effort to balance the pressure on them from Pakistan.

CHALLENGES:

  • Recognition on Taliban:
    • India has not formally recognised the Taliban regime. The visit is solely focused on ensuring proper delivery of humanitarian assistance and did not amount to granting diplomatic recognition to the regime.
  • Pakistan’s deep state:
    • Given its nexus with the Taliban, it is possible that Pak’s deep state forces could use Afghan as a ground to export state-sponsored terrorism to India.
  • China’s growing presence:
    • China, even without recognizing the Taliban regime, is moving to consolidate its economic influence in the country. For instance, China announced USD 31 million worth of aid to Afghanistan after the Taliban's government formation announcement.
  • Human rights violation:
    • Taliban follows a strict Sharia regime which deprives women of nearly all freedoms. Also, instances of human rights violation, especially against minorities, have been reported under the new regime. Such violations could make it difficult for India to maintain good bilateral relations.
  • Ties with previous regimes:
    • India had close ties with the former Ashraf Ghani government. Also, India’s official policy is to not entertain dialogue with militant groups like Taliban. This could be a challenge in establishing stronger ties with the Taliban.

CONCLUSION:

  • The recent developments highlight the growing realisation in New Delhi that the Taliban is here to stay for the foreseeable future. The meeting is a natural next step towards gradual engagement.
  • The government is now looking at the possibility of posting a very limited number of officials, mainly to oversee consular matters and the distribution of humanitarian aid.
  • The Taliban is keen to gain international recognition, the outfit’s attitude also indicates that it is not averse to developing ties with New Delhi. 
  • However, India should not hurry in to offer diplomatic recognition to the Taliban. India should work with other regional and global players to push the Taliban to adopt a more inclusive regime, while at the same time maintaining a policy of gradual bilateral engagement rooted in realism.

PRACTICE QUESTION:

Q. For India, engagement with the Taliban is inevitable and a need of the hour for its own geopolitical and strategic interests. Critically analyse?