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What the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan means for India

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For India, the house-of-cards collapse of the 20-year-old Afghan democracy represents a strategic setback and a stinging humiliation. Since 2001 India has spent a non-trivial $3bn or so to bolster the American-installed regime. It built roads, dams, power lines, clinics and schools across the country, the Economist said adding:

"It trained Afghan officers, including women, in its military academies. It gave scholarships to thousands. India even presented a fancy new parliament, complete with fountains and a giant bronze dome. Narendra Modi, India's prime minister, himself inaugurated it in 2015."

However, Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar argues that India's policymakers couldn't have been unaware that a cabal was ruling Afghanistan but deliberately chose to ignore it.

"This is incomprehensible. India stuck out its neck as recently as Aug 9 Monday to set the stage for Ghani's government to project itself to the international audience from the UN Security Council podium. It ignored a formal request from Pakistan to participate in the UN SC discussion so that Ghani's people had a field day!"

The disconcerting fact is, in India too, a determined lobby advocated the 'forever war' against all logic, and the Afghan National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib was our man in Kabul, too.

India should summarily abandon its contrived narrative built on animus against Pakistan and recognize these new stirrings, Bhadrakumar suggested adding:

Liberated from the Faustian deal with Ghani and his circle as well as the American yoke, Indian diplomacy should renew networking with Afghan elites who were kept out of power.

"A closure of the Mission in Kabul will be a Himalayan blunder at this historic juncture when the wheels of diplomacy and politics are set to accelerate in Afghanistan."

Kabul's swift collapse leaves New Delhi with significant security concerns

Sumit Ganguly, a professor of political science and the Rabindranath Tagore chair in Indian cultures and civilizations at Indiana University, Bloomington, wrote in Foreign Policy on August 17:

The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has significant ramifications for South Asia, beginning with the rush of refugees Pakistan may soon see at its western borders. But few countries in the region have as much at stake in Afghanistan's future as India, its fifth-largest aid donor and one of the most effective. Nonetheless, the United States kept India at arm's length from most political negotiations over Afghanistan, owing to Pakistan's strenuous objections. During the Troika Plus talks this month among China, Pakistan, Russia, and the United States, India remained noticeably absent.

Kept out of these forums, India now finds many of its critical investments in human and physical infrastructure in Afghanistan in jeopardy as the Taliban take control. Worse still, the crisis following the U.S. withdrawal leaves India's foreign-policy and security interests at considerable risk on two fronts.

First, a new Taliban government will likely foster safe havens for anti-Indian terrorist organizations and other groups that could sow chaos in Indian-administered Kashmir. Meanwhile, China's willingness to work with the Taliban could expand its footprint in the region.

In the last two decades, India had become one of Afghanistan's most significant donors, providing scholarships to Afghan students, offering food assistance, and helping restore the country's war-ravaged power grid. But based on its past experience with a Taliban government, India's security establishment now faces serious fears about its interests in the country.

According to Sumit Ganguly, in the past, the Taliban actively assisted terrorists targeting Indian citizens and interests. "Relatedly, the availability of terrorist safe havens may significantly complicate Indian counterinsurgency operations in Kashmir. Indian security officials fear that the emergence of new sanctuaries could embolden indigenous terrorist groups currently operating in the disputed region. With the connivance of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency, which has long been involved in the Kashmir insurgency, these groups may also gain access to safe havens in Afghanistan. Such staging grounds could lead to increased violence in Indian-administered Kashmir."

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
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