India and Afghanistan had once a strong historical and cultural relationship based on links and the exchanges that used to take place between people to people.
The Indian cultural center, and the Afghan musicians trained in “Patiala Gharana” were an important shared cultural heritage. However, decades of war destroyed a number of these traditions.
However, despite all the ravages which affected the old ties in the recent past, India enjoyed a good relationship with the previous Afghan Govt. under the presidency of Hamid Karzai.
India provided a huge amount of money in creating new infrastructures like highways, parliament houses, schools, colleges, and hospitals. Further, there was also shifting and settlement of a large number of populations in each other’s country during this period.
India’s role and importance in Afghanistan caused irritation and annoyance to Pakistan as Pakistan observed that its sphere of influence was gradually diminishing in Afghanistan.
Pakistan thus started raising Taliban and Haqqani groups right from the level of Madrasas to counter and contain India’s influence in Afghanistan.
The emergence of the New Afghanistan Govt. is another new beginning in the bilateral relations between India and Afghanistan. The new Govt. has come with legitimacy provided by the United States of America which is India’s important ally.
Pakistan has also defined it by calling it the “Naya Afghanistan”. But very little seems to have changed on the ground. The apprehensions and doubts about the Freedom and Rights of Citizens of Afghanistan, under the new Govt. in Kabul continue to remain. Not much seems to have changed on the ground specifically as it relates to the rights of women and minorities.
Keeping in view these doubts, shall it be proper to call it “Naya Afghanistan”? Its past is still casting dark shadows on its future.
Utterances by some leaders of the present dispensation of Afghanistan as well as statements made by the leader of the Haqqani group that the New Afghan Govt. will have a policy of non-interference on Kashmir issue, has been received well by the Govt. of India so far.
But India cannot simply overlook the old deep ties between the Taliban and Pakistan Military establishment. It needs to be watched and seen if the attitude of the present new Afghan Govt. would mean freedom and independence from the influence of ISI of Pakistan.
India cannot let down its guards about the security concerns to India keeping in view the earlier activities of ISI at tandem with radical Taliban groups to indulge in a proxy war in India.
Unfortunately, there are some radical groups in present Afghanistan that are being supported by ISI of Pakistan.
The new Afghan Govt. has shown its keenness to abide by the rights and freedom as enshrined in the Afghan constitution of 2004. This is in the interest of Afghan people themselves as they are the most affected. This could perhaps be a way forward to bring peace to the Afghan people and also take India and other friendly countries along with it.
Though what happens in the times to come is in the hands of the New Afghan Govt. yet it has to be kept in mind by India that the Taliban factor supported by ISI of Pakistan cannot be ignored.
The following points need to be considered towards challenges likely to be faced by India.
- Pakistan would activate it’s Haqqani group to counter Indian Aid and development projects.
- Once the situation stabilizes the insurgent Taliban could be focused towards India in Kashmir.
- The grouping of China- Pak in Afghanistan could be exploited by employing insurgent Taliban for geo – political dominance.
India has a hard bargain to buy Peace with the New Afghanistan Govt. The absence of earlier patronage of America has made India’s interest and position in Afghanistan all the more difficult.
In view of these developments, India may have to design its own policy and chart out its own course to keep continuous friendly relations with the New Afghanistan Govt. even without the security which was being provided by the American Military presence earlier in Afghanistan.
India would have to move cautiously to watch and see that the New Afghanistan Govt. professed policies and also some positive assurance given by the Taliban group are followed in letter and spirit by the New Afghanistan dispensation.
Possible actions by India could be
- Continuing humanitarian aid and assistance to the New dispensation in Afghanistan.
- Providing immediate assistance of food grains to ward off endemic starvation in Afghanistan.
- Building bridges and other infrastructure for development projects.
- Keeping good relationships with the countries bordering Afghanistan as they could also face problems from Taliban and ISIS from Afghanistan soil.
The earlier Pakistan-based terror network is a danger that still looms large on the horizon.
India has to move cautiously and respond appropriately to the New Afghan dispensation in times to come.
India’s policy with Afghanistan has to be modulated to ensure that Indian interest remains secure. However, the future course of action and diplomatic relations of Pakistan and China may need a close watch by India.
The approach by India towards Afghanistan shall need to be a very well-drafted and careful approach through the Taliban leader “Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai” has said that the Taliban wants to continue Afghanistan political, economic, and cultural ties with India.
The difficulties in buying Peace with Afghanistan due to Pakistan ISIS likely moves to exploit the Taliban’s to create problems in India shall need a watch.
Join the NISSMAT webinar on 25th Feb 2022 at 6 PM (IST) where our learned speakers shall deliberate on New Afghanistan Govt. – Difficulties in buying Peace by India.