Opinion seems to be divided in the country about whether or not India should recognise the incoming Islamic emirate “government”—if it can be called that—in Afghanistan. It’s as if there is even a choice. The answer is an obvious “no”. That this is even being debated shows how skewed priorities are, especially for those who would have India normalise the military takeover of Afghanistan by a bunch of terrorists as just another change of government, or at worst a military coup.
The need to engage with the Taliban should not extend beyond sending out the clear message that any use of the Afghan soil to nurture anti-India terrorists, will be met with strictest action, including force, if required; and of course ensuring the safety of Indians still in that country. The Taliban are not doing India a favour by saying that they are not interested in any India-Pakistan conflict. They are not supposed to be interested in it, anyway. Given the breakneck speed with which the Taliban have reneged on all the promises they made to the United States, including finding a negotiated settlement to the Afghan conflict, there is no reason to take their assurances seriously. The premise we need to work from is, the Taliban are a Pakistani creation, and India is the primary reason why Pakistan has been desperate to get its claws into Afghanistan. Afghanistan not only provides Pakistan with strategic depth in case of any conflict with India, but also territory to nurture terrorists who can be used against India—and the rest of the world—while disowning all such misadventures by pointing to their roots in Afghanistan. With US President Joe Biden making a ludicrous distinction between the Taliban and ISIS-Khorasan, both of which are under GHQ’s thumb, it’s bonanza-time for Pakistan, which will now feel emboldened to make risky moves that may even push the Indian subcontinent to the brink of war. Recognising a Taliban “government” in Kabul means supporting Pakistani misadventures.
Washington DC’s appeasement of the Taliban is unacceptable to the civilized world. It’s a huge mistake. Hence, it is strange that some in this country would urge the current dispensation to repeat President Joe Biden’s monumental mistakes. Strategic convergence with the United States in the Indo-Pacific does not mean following in the footsteps of the US to commit geopolitical blunders in the Af-Pak region, or anywhere else. Or are we being urged to drop “autonomy” from the phrase we claim to believe in, “strategic autonomy”? Most importantly, by supping with the Taliban, India will abandon the Afghan people, who despise Pakistan and its proxies now in charge of the country. They consider India to be their friend. They consider the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban to be an invasion by Pakistan. They are being hunted, terrorised, tortured, maimed and killed by these medieval forces of death. Their lives and dreams are being snuffed out. India giving recognition to the Taliban is akin to choosing the side of the terrorists, instead of standing by those with whom the world’s largest democracy should be siding.
The US and the rest of the West may claim to be rooted to the values of liberty, equality and freedom, but in reality, they unashamedly sacrifice these values at the altar of self-interest whenever the occasion demands—as they did in Afghanistan. India is not a country born because of the random cartographic exercises of the British; India is a civilisational power, with deep roots in ancient history, where Afghanistan too had a place. A nation such as India, which believes in “vasudhaiva kutumbakam”—the world is one family—cannot betray a branch of its family. Let’s be true to our values, instead of looking for cues from the West.
If India recognises the Taliban “government”, it will help the US in sounding the death knell of the fledgling resistance that is taking shape in Panjshir valley against the Taliban. India needs to stand by its friends in Panjshir—the land of the five (Panj) lions (Shers), or as legend has it, the land visited by the Pandavas, the five brothers of the Mahabharata. The resistance must succeed and the Taliban must lose. India needs to take the lead in this regard.