India has a chequered history of dealing with groups that are implacably opposed to the interests of the world’s most populous democracy, while seeking sometimes to cajole the Government of India into parting with huge amounts of money. Among such misadventures may be included the support given to the Prabhakaran-led LTTE. This continued until the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 despite the LTTE supremo not having hidden his desire for a Tamil Eelam that included vast tracts of Tamil Nadu and even portions of neighbouring states. More than a decade after such backing to Velupillai Prabhakaran was shown to be a bad move, purse strings were opened to the Maoist groups in Nepal, for reasons that have yet to be made public. That such groups would always see the PRC as their natural ally seems to have escaped attention in the air-conditioned chambers in Delhi where policy gets decided. This being India, there has of course been zero accountability for such grievous errors. Indeed, those directly responsible for such decisions almost without exception went on to stellar careers, thereby proving that in the world of the Lutyens Zone, nothing succeeds like abject failure to achieve stated objectives. Now we are witnessing a host of voices within officialdom as well as their echo chambers in civil society that India must “deal with the Taliban to protect its interests”. The assumption being made is that the Taliban is a unified entity with a centralised command structure, somewhat in the manner that the Congress Party is an organisation that has since 1969 been controlled by the Nehru family. It is regarded as automatic that after AICC president Sonia Gandhi relinquishes her charge, the mantle will descend on Rahul Gandhi, the only other name under consideration being his sister, Priyanka. Whatever may be the views of political analysts about such a situation, it must be admitted that the vice-like grip of “CP” (Congress president) Sonia Gandhi and now her son on the still capacious Congress organisation is clear and impressive. Just as there seems to be almost no accountability within the higher ranks of officialdom in India, there is none where the First Family of the Congress is concerned. Electoral disaster after disaster since 2014 has made no difference to the control that is exercised by the “CP” on the party that was passed on to Rajiv Gandhi by the tragic passing of Indira Gandhi on 31 October 1984. Should Government of India accept the view that there is no option but to deal with the Taliban and recognize that collective as the government of Afghanistan, the effects of such an error of judgement will soon become evident.
What is portrayed as a single entity is in fact a collection of at least six groups, two of which are under the control of GHQ Rawalpindi, while another has been persuaded by PRC generosity to toe the line of the PLA. Three groups are what may be termed “Free Taliban”, although for reasons of tactical necessity, they may make friendly noises towards the Sino-Pakistan alliance that controls significant portions of the Wahhabi movement. Interestingly, younger elements are overwhelmingly “Free Taliban”, while most of the senior leadership comprise elements that have been made captive by the GHQ-PLA alliance that is seeking to dominate Afghanistan now that Commander-in-Chief of the US armed forces, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr has run away from Afghanistan. Given the innate pride of the Pashtun community (which forms the bedrock of the Taliban), it is unlikely that those working as servants of the GHQ-PLA alliance will continue without resistance from those Pashtuns who are unhappy at the manner in which the division of Pashtunistan caused by the Durand Line has been allowed to continue even after the 99-year limit of that map-making exercise was passed in 1992. Free Pashtuns across both sides of this now invalid boundary have since ignored it, and will continue doing so, despite efforts by the GHQ-PLA alliance to make sure that the Durand Line gets established as a viable frontier. Certainly, India must deal with elements of the Taliban, but these must be “Free Pashtuns”, as it would be futile to expect those who have subordinated themselves to Beijing and Rawalpindi to in any manner secure the vital interests of India, the country which is the target of the Sino-Pakistan alliance that is seeking to establish mastery over the entire corpus of the Taliban. While recognition would be folly, any concession given to the Taliban would need to be after that collective has in some substantive manner met Indian requests, for example in the matter of safe passage of Indian nationals still in Afghanistan. Should concessions be given in advance, they will meet the same fate as has been witnessed on the Kailash Range, from which Indian forces were withdrawn but PLA forces continue in the positions they held. Should GHQ-PLA stooges in the Taliban prevent Indian citizens from leaving, or carry out such unpopular steps as banning Indian movies and music, that should be treated as an unfriendly act. Together with the Free Taliban, contact needs to be made with Uzbeks, Tajiks, Hazara, Pashtun nationalists, Shia and religious minorities across Afghanistan, and there should be no barriers to such interaction as a consequence of the commands of GHQ Rawalpindi and the PLA to their captive factions within the Taliban. Speak softly but carry a big stick. Don’t throw the stick away as cavalierly as President Biden did.MD