The recent reports of Pakistan shifting its terrorist training camps to Afghanistan, where jihadi forces are busy planning their next move to unleash terror in India, have been authenticated with the latest findings of a United Nations team.
According to a report submitted to the Security Council Committee by the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team, there are as many as 6,500 Pakistani terrorists currently stationed in Afghanistan, including members of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
The report claimed that according to Afghan interlocutors, “JeM and LeT facilitate the trafficking of terrorists into Afghanistan, who act as advisers, trainers, and specialists in improvised explosive devices and operate under the umbrella of the Afghan Taliban.”
The report vindicates India’s long-held stand on Pakistan’s state sponsorship of terrorism and the use of Afghan soil to train anti-India militant groups.
Expressing “serious concern” over the findings of the report, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava blamed Pakistan for its failure to put an end to support terrorism.
“This vindicates India’s long-standing position that Pakistan remains the epicentre of international terrorism. That proscribed terrorist entities and individuals continue to enjoy safe havens and recruit, train, arm, finance and operate with impunity from Pakistan with state support. They inflict violence and spread terrorism in the region and other parts of the world,” he said.
The revealed involvement and alliance between the Pakistan-sponsored terrorist groups and the Taliban has also reaffirmed India’s skepticism of engaging in direct talks with the Taliban.
Despite the signing of the US-Taliban peace agreement, India has remained firm on its decision to not engage with the Taliban directly. India’s decision is mainly guided by New Delhi’s deep apprehensions of the historical and close nexus between the Taliban (especially the Haqqani network) and the anti-India Pakistan establishment and the violent attacks inflicted by the group on Indian interests within Afghanistan.
India has maintained that it is willing to talk with the Taliban and participate in the reconciliation process only when the group recognizes the Afghan democratic forces and joins the intra-Afghan peace process.
The UN report also mentioned the deep ambiguity around Afghanistan’s political future.
“The senior leadership of Al-Qaeda remains in Afghanistan and the relations between the Taliban, especially the Haqqani network, and Al-Qaeda remain close, based on friendship, a history of shared struggle, ideological sympathy, and intermarriage,” it mentioned.
It also contends that the Taliban held regular consultations with the Al-Qaeda while the negotiations with the US were on and offered guarantees to the group to honor their historical ties.
The Taliban, on the other hand, berated the UN findings as “baseless, intelligence-based and bigoted remarks.”
Reprimanding the report, the Taliban asserted that, “the UN report is constructed to harm and derail the US-IEA agreement, to keep the fire of war raging in our homeland” and described the agreement with the US as an “important tool” for establishing “enduring peace and security in Afghanistan.”
Given the uncertainty on the future of the peace process in Afghanistan, India must prepare itself for all eventualities to protect its strategic and economic interests in Afghanistan.
<em>(The author has a doctorate on Pakistan from JNU, the views are her own)</em>.