‘India should engage with the countries in the region with whom interests converge and wait’.


New Delhi: With the capture of Kabul by the Taliban, the whole world is restructuring and recalibrating their strategy on the Afghanistan question. The evolving situation in Afghanistan had wider implications for the whole region, including South Asia. It seems that New Delhi is also revisiting its Afghan strategy as nobody expected the government of Ashraf Ghani to fall so early. The Sunday Guardian tried to know what the way ahead is for India to regain ground in Afghanistan.

Ajit Kumar Jha, a strategic affairs expert who was also the founding editor of Doha-based Qatar Tribune, said: “India has historic ties with two countries that are very close to Afghanistan and have major influence on the Taliban: Qatar and Russia. Since 2013, Doha has been the official headquarters of the Taliban. And the old Soviet Union was the dominant power in Afghanistan before the Americans began replacing them, especially post 9/11. India must cultivate its close friendship with both Qatar (India is the second largest purchaser of LNG from Qatar after China) and Russia to reestablish its links in Kabul.” Every Indian expert who understands the depth of the issue agrees that our larger strategic aim must be to counter the China-Pakistan nexus which is at play in Kabul by forging an alternative grouping of countries in the long run.

An official who works with an Indian external security agency and focuses on the Af-Pak region, said: “I think we have to wait for some time. A government had not been formed as of now. There are talks of a broad-based government led by Taliban; we know that there are many ethnic groups in the country, the Panjshiris, the Tajiks, the Hazara and the Ujbeks. 15% population in Afghanistan is Shia who are hated by the Taliban as the Taliban are a Deobandi Sunni group. I had learned that protests are happening in areas like Khost, Asadabad and Jalalabad. After the government formation, things would be clearer. Then India can play its cards. It is likely that if Taliban goes as per the dictation by Rawalpindi, then cracks from within may emerge very soon. There are many factions within the Taliban itself; the Haqqani faction is the product of Pakistan’s Inter-service Intelligence (ISI). But some others are a bit open. After sometime, we will get an opportunity to exploit the fault lines in Afghanistan. So, wait and watch should be the strategy. We should also engage with the countries in the region whose interests converge with us like Iran and central Asian countries, as any adventure by the Taliban with minority Shia or Tajiks would not be taken lightly by these nations.”

India had categorically stated at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and also to the Taliban delegation which came to meet India’s ambassador Deepak Mittal, in Doha, that India wants an Afghanistan that does not pose a threat to neighbours in terms of “terrorism, separatism and extremism” and is neutral, independent and which ceases all attacks against civilians and chooses dialogue rather than violence with other stakeholders. New Delhi’s position would be supported by all the countries which believe in a rule-based, democratic order and moreover by the peace loving Afghans. India and Afghanistan share historical ties that go back ages. In 2015, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi traveled to Kabul to inaugurate the $90 million Afghanistan Parliament building, made with marbles quarried from Rajasthan. The entire national Parliament of Afghanistan with its marble fountains and giant size bronze dome is a gift from the world’s largest democracy, India. In the last one decade, India has invested more than three billion dollars in different developmental and infrastructure projects in the country.