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The Afghanistan Situation: How India can Discomfit Pakistan Even Now

Abdullah Abdullah, who led the High Council for Afghan Reconciliation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi (Photo: IANS)

Indian diplomacy should make full use of the sense of shame in the international community for the mess it created in Afghanistan

The lightning pace with which Taliban has come to power in Afghanistan has shocked the international community and has left many of our own strategic experts worried about the country’s foreign policy options.

However, the news should not be seen as a failure of Indian foreign policy but as the cue for our principled stance against radical ideologies and terrorist groups to be championed at the international level for it to deliver positive outcomes for us.

In fact, this is the time that India should go on the diplomatic offensive by making big powers realize their flawed policies in addressing the Afghan situation, which kept India out of all important negotiations, thereby making them susceptible to Pakistan’s machinations in catapulting Taliban to power in Afghanistan.

The lightening assault by the Taliban has rendered tens of thousands of ordinary Afghan citizens homeless (Photo: IANS)

The flawed logic of berating our foreign policy inaction in reaching out to Taliban in recent years, expressed even by some of the country’s seasoned strategic experts, is quite demoralising and should not affect our diplomatic missions from making full use of the growing realization in the international community of the strategic blunder it has committed in Afghanistan.

In fact, the present sentiments of shame and loss among Americans and the growing sense of insecurity experienced even by the Russians and Chinese could help India in gaining a more credent international ear on the role of Pakistan in spreading the menace of radicalism in the region. In fact, it is time that our country speaks up more vociferously from its fortuitous position of being the president of the United Nations Security Council against the conspiracies of our recalcitrant neighbor.

Now is the time for India to warn Western countries, along with Russia, China and Iran against giving recognition to the Taliban and to warn them against succumbing to Pakistan’s glib insinuations in this regard.

Some member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, particularly Russia, China and Iran, were sympathetic towards Taliban as they wanted US forces out of the region. However, like the US, they probably never realized the level of Pakistan’s role in Taliban’s militant might that catapulted it into taking complete control of Afghanistan. These nations might have been envisioning a future scenario where Afghanistan would have somewhat inclusive, mostly fractious polity, even as Afghanistan’s defence forces would keep jihadist groups in check.

However, the present scenario where an unfettered Taliban 2.0, might potentially threaten their own national security interests is suddenly dawning upon Russia and China, which are now understandably developing cold feet in granting recognition to the Taliban. This is the time India should work toward convincing them against repeating the blunder of not listening to its counsel.

The withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan is also not unmitigated bad news for India. In fact, the US is now not handicapped by the presence of its forces in Afghanistan, which earlier stopped it from taking strict action against Pakistan’s notorious practices. With US forces out of Afghanistan, the Biden administration now enjoys a free hand in taking more strident measures against the Pakistan government and military, particularly in curbing its support to proxy non-state actors in the region, including those operating in India.

It is true that with the coming of the Taliban, the possibility of Pak-backed terrorist groups like Lashkar-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, who reportedly joined Taliban forces in its recent military advance towards Kabul , might become more bellicose on their return to the India front. However, it is quite possible the recent Western ambivalence over India’s position on Jammu and Kashmir may suddenly become quite favourable, as the fact of Pakistan’s interventionist actions in its neighborhood may now gain greater recognition and acceptance internationally. Here the role of India’s diplomatic capabilities and soft power would play a key role.

Therefore, the rapidly changing security scenario in India’s western neighborhood may not necessarily be all dark and grim as might seem on first view, but carries with it several possible and promising silver linings, which India should use by employing a more astute and a pro-active diplomatic approach.

(The writer is Research Fellow, Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, and the author of the book ISIS: Race to Armageddon)