Updated: July 10, 2021 8:49:57 am
US President Joe Biden’s elaborate remarks on American and NATO troop withdrawal from Afghanistan cannot hide the dismal reality. It was not Biden’s war to begin with, and he inherited the bad deal with the Taliban made by his predecessor last year. He cited this, too, to justify the withdrawal, while declaring that the war was unwinnable, had gone on too long, claimed too many American lives. Other than the elimination of Osama bin Laden (on Pakistani soil), the jury is out on whether the US was able to achieve its objectives. The Taliban are on the brink of capturing Afghanistan. They remain in contact with al Qaeda, as documented by a UN report earlier this year. The chaos the US leaves behind in Afghanistan for the second time in 30 years poses a heightened risk of instability in the entire region. Biden may hold the view that nation-building was not an objective, and that it is for Afghans to sort out their problems, but that does not explain the millions of dollars poured into that country’s periodic elections, its painstaking Constitution making exercise.
For India, the fast developing ground situation in favour of the Taliban in Afghanistan holds no glad tidings, good options, or even a silver lining. A development partner in Afghanistan over the last two decades under the US umbrella, India now faces the prospects of dealing with the Taliban, largely a proxy of Pakistan, as a potentially powerful force in the neighbourhood. Fellow travellers such as the Haqqani network, Laskhar e Toiba and Jaish e Mohammed are waiting in the wings. Delhi could either forget the collusion between Pakistan and Taliban, and incidents such as the IC 814 hijack, and the Indian embassy bombing in Kabul, and do business with the Taliban, or must be reconciled to a potentially destabilising force, which adds a multiplier element to the two-front threat on the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh and the Line of Control in Kashmir.
It is debatable if the back-channel talks that led to the revival of the ceasefire at the LoC with Pakistan could have broken through Delhi’s difficulties at this time. After all, the geoeconomics spouting Pakistani Army is quite clear about wanting to see the back of India in Afghanistan. The ministry of external affairs has denied media reports that Indian officials have held talks with the Taliban. Minister S Jaishankar’s trip to Moscow via Tehran holds no promise of positive outcomes. In this moment, India’s problems, including a possible fallout in Kashmir, have no ready solutions.
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