India has always been a supporter of the democratically elected Afghan Government. It has consistently worked for the development of Afghanistan and the prosperity of its people. Apart from the strategic importance of Afghanistan in the geopolitical world, India has always striven for peace in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is a link to South Asia for trade. Taliban, which is the terrorist organisation with UN sanctions, has always created violence in Afghan soil to grab political power. India has always opposed the Taliban from the days of conflict in Afghanistan.
Taliban proved to be a deadly enemy of India when the terrorists supported by the Taliban hijacked the IC-814. India had to release Masood Azhar, which again proved to be a loss for India when Masood Azhar led JeM and LeT groups attacked India in 2001 and after that, with the recent one being the Pulwama attack. India’s stand is that “terror and talks cannot go together,” and India is still consistent on that. But the recent developments in Afghanistan have changed the geopolitical scenario. The US-Taliban peace agreement has put up several questions about the future of Afghanistan.
The deal signed on 29 February in Doha has listed several points to attain peace and for achieving a political settlement in Afghanistan. Some of the points are :
The deal hasn’t explicitly mentioned the allies of the USA or who will be the participants of intra-Afghan Dialogue. The current scenario in Afghanistan is that Abdullah, who is Ashraf Ghani’s main rival, does not recognize him as President because he smells foul play in the election procedure. So before the intra-Afghan dialogue, this issue has to get settled. The deal then adds that the Taliban will not allow any of its members, other individuals, or groups, including al-Qa’ida, to use the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.
The deal has not added ISIS, LeT, JeM, and other terror groups, which pose a severe threat to India’s security. The deal says that “The obligations of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban in this agreement apply in areas under their control until the formation of the new post-settlement Afghan Islamic government as determined by the intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiation.”
So, this may mean that the Taliban will not be responsible if some attack happens on the territory outside the Taliban control. The recent shooting in Kabul proves this. So, how trustworthy is the Taliban is for the USA?
The USA in another agreement with The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan says that USA will conduct military operations in Afghanistan with the consent of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to disrupt and degrade efforts by al-Qa’ida, ISIS-K, and other international terrorist groups or individuals to carry out attacks against the United States or its allies.
In this agreement, too, the USA has not specified its allies. India will watch this situation with utmost care because India has invested more than 3 billion USD in infrastructure development, hydropower projects, roads construction, education, health and sports sector, etc. India also trains the Afghan soldiers as well as their diplomats in Indian soil. With Taliban holding power in Afghanistan, New Delhi will be cautious about the safety of Indian embassies, its officials as well as India diaspora in Afghanistan.
India will also be cautious about the training of terror groups in Afghan soil sponsored by our next-door enemy.
To conclude, we have to accept that peace in Afghan soil depends on the further action of the Taliban whether the USA completely withdraws itself after 14 months or not. A regional competition may arise between China, Pakistan, India, and Russia to assert influence over Afghanistan after USA withdrawal.
The USA should not let Pakistan exploit Afghan soil against India. The USA should stay in Afghanistan and should also observe the intra-Afghan negotiations unless and until a peaceful political settlement is reached which is accepted by all. The international community should continue its financial, technological, military, and humanitarian support to Afghanistan until peace is restored.