As the Taliban is gaining ground, capturing one city after the other and the fall of Kabul is imminent with catastrophic consequences for the ordinary people, it is virtually the end of the diplomatic road for India in war-torn Afghanistan. There would be no room for the language of humanitarian and development assistance, adopted by India, in a place where power flows from guns and friendships are forged based on military gains and religious loyalties. Despite investing heavily in the country’s infrastructure, education, health, power generation and irrigation sectors over the last two decades, India has never really been part of the brutal power game in Kabul. It never sent troops on the ground or gave weapons to the government. And it has steadfastly refused to do business with the Taliban, the ultra-conservative insurgent group unapologetic about imposing the brutal, medieval practices on its people with utter contempt for human rights. The radical Islamic outfit’s role during the horrific incidents, like the Kandahar hijack, bombing Indian embassy in Kabul and destruction of Bamiyan Buddhas, makes it particularly inimical to India’s interests. It is preposterous to advocate the path of dialogue with the Taliban because such a course would mean compromising on core principles which India stood for and changing its position on terrorism. It would mean that New Delhi has begun to distinguish between good and bad terrorists and reflects a defeatist attitude. India had no role in the violent politics of Kabul in the past nor does it have any controlling stake in its future.
It is clear that New Delhi has a challenging task ahead as the war-torn nation descends into chaos following the exit of American troops and the expansion of the Taliban. A Pakistan-China grip, with the help of the Taliban, is bound to pose a new set of challenges for India in the region. There is an ominous possibility of Pakistan shifting the training camps of terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed to Taliban-occupied Afghanistan for future terror strikes against India. Already, groups like the al Qaeda, Islamic State, East Turkestan Islamic Movement and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan are thriving under the protection of the Taliban in Afghanistan. The Taliban dispensation in Afghanistan will give a fillip to the extremist elements in Kashmir. India must be extremely careful on this front. The ground situation is rapidly changing with the Taliban capturing nearly half of the 34 provinces and inching towards Kabul. The Afghan Army has lost its will to put up a fight while the US has adopted a hands-off approach. China, which relies on Islamabad to handle the Taliban, is expected to recognise, sooner than later, the Islamist insurgent group as the legitimate ruler of Afghanistan.
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