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INDIAN'S TALIBAN DILEMMA - TO ENGAGE OR NOT ?

Updated: Oct 7, 2021



BY UTKARSH ROSHAN


Ever Since the US decided to exit Afghanistan, the South Asian neighborhood has been doing a lot of calculations. India has not been behind. With Taliban likely to have a much larger presence in Afghanistan, India finds itself in a rather precarious placement.


India’s relations with the Taliban have been strained for a very long time. From the time when Taliban contributed to the hijacking of IC814 to the recent execution of Indian Photojournalist Danish Siddiqui — as claimed by many news reports-, Taliban’s hostility towards India is evident. There is also the fact that the Taliban has been on good terms with India’s longtime adversary Pakistan, and that doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon.


This whole situation leaves India to making some very tedious and maybe unpleasant diplomatic decisions. Many experts see this as an opportunity to engage more actively in Afghanistan. They argue that if India decides to sit back now, it would be very late. The Taliban backed by Pakistan will look to gain as much power and ground in Afghanistan as possible. Pakistan already is looking to solely fill the void that is being left by America. They believe that India has to engage in order to stop this from happening. While they agree that India’s engagement will not be cheap, and bear all sorts of expenses, but they assure that the cost of engaging would be much lesser that the cost of sitting out. Along with the threat of Pakistan, there is also the threat of Chinese involvement through Pakistan, which they warn, would be very unpleasant for India. It would also undermine the two decades worth of efforts India has put in building strategic relations in the region.


This shift of international presence in Afghanistan is what is in the center of the engagement argument. This argument sees India actively increasing its support to the Afghani government and its defense forces, who have been almost left stranded in their own country after the American exit. Engaging diplomatically with both the Taliban and the Afghani government, which is what India was looking at, when they were holding talks with the Taliban, seems a farther dream,because of the recent Taliban hostilities.


The other school of thought wants India it to delay engagement and wait as a patient but strategic observer. It argues that an all-out conflict between Taliban and the Afghani government is inevitable, getting involved would land India in a murkier position that they are in currently. Their plan of action is to sit and observe the changes that take place. Committing early to any form of approach is something that they advise would be injurious to India’s interest. Their argument stems from the fact, that every superpower of foreign origin, that has looked to enter Afghanistan and control has failed. They feel that India, while being vary should let both its adversaries Pakistan and China, tries their hands at achieving something the USSR or the Americans couldn’t, as they are likely to fail.


The argument is at getting its hands dirty India, would achieve nothing substantial. They believe that if the Afghan government and forces manage to hold their own or even manage to curb Taliban’s over ambitions, engaging actively and backing the government at that moment would be a more appropriate time for India. The reason for this is said to be that even in the most unpleasant scenario of the Taliban gaining power in Afghanistan, they are a very unstable and volatile group to be a strategic ally for India’s adversaries. And India’s current strategic wait, could help their diplomatic cause.


While the experts have their own opinions about how India should handle the situation, there is no doubt that each one of them agrees on how important this time is for India’s position in the South Asian geopolitics. India sees itself at very important crossroads, and it would test India’s diplomatic prowess. While engaging and strategic waiting are both options that can be looked upon, indifference or ignorance is not an option India can afford.


 






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Pragati Pal
Pragati Pal
10 set 2021

Can you elaborate on the 'Taliban's evident hosility towards India?' I am not quite convinced because if anything, I believe Taliban and ISIS have played safe over on Indian territory

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