India’s fresh initiatives

Transition in Afghanistan

By Dr DK Giri,
(Prof, International Politic, JIMMC)

Taliban has regained power in Afghanistan after 20 years. The motto of their battle for power is that all foreign forces, predominantly Americans withdraw from their soil. On 15 August, with the taking over of Kabul by Taliban, that mission was accomplished. Countries are reacting variously to the current developments in Afghanistan — their speed, the violence, the resistance, or the lack of it, and so on. Foreigners are fleeing or being evacuated in panic and confusion. Let us interpret the events dispassionately and pontificate on an action plan for India as South Block is formulating its strategy.
It is now evident that the Americans did not have a robust exit plan. The US’ abrupt departure from Afghanistan has raised many eyebrows about their 20-year engagement there and the legacy they leave behind. International observers, commentators and experts are shocked and surprised by the agility of Taliban in overrunning the Ashraf Ghani government. After 20 years of deep engagement with the country, what a brittle security apparatus Americans left behind?
This is a matter of academic inquiry by the experts on foreign and military policies. I have maintained in the column in several articles that Americans misread the nexus between Pakistan and Taliban and continued to arm Pakistan to its teeth to check Taliban. They were, in fact, building up Taliban, not fighting them. At the sametime, India is charged with inaction on taming Taliban by emphatically impressing upon the Americans about the Taliban-Pakistan and now China and Russia axis in the region.
However, it is time to make amends and take fresh initiatives in dealing with the situation. To start with, it will be prudent to realise one’s mistake and missteps. Then only one can apply the corrective steps. Such a realisation is not yet in sight. So it seems. Joe Biden, the American President, who will go down in history for his non-thoughtful action in Afghanistan, reminding people of American retreat in Vietnam in 1975, “stands squarely by his decision to pull US troops out of the war-torn country”.
The current US rival in world politics, China, has berated US for their role in Afghanistan. “The US has left an awful mess of unrest, division and broken families in Afghanistan”. Many have commented that US left Afghanistan after 20 years in “worse security condition than what it was when they came in”.
Regardless of reactions by countries, one has to deal with the situation as it exists today. That is, Taliban are in charge now; the former President and his ministers have fled the country. The world will have to deal with the present regime led by Taliban. Again, many observers are worried that the dark days of Taliban rule 1996 to 2001 will returnhunting and hounding those who opposed them. Women and children will berelegated to non-citizens as girls may not have the right to education and the women the freedom of movement etc.
For now, such fears and apprehensions are misplaced. Taliban in their public pronouncements have sounded vastly different from what they were 20 years ago. They claim that their ideology and beliefs are the same, but the priorities and perspectives have changed. To cite a few of their policy statements, Taliban has declared a general Amnesty, which means no revengeful action will be taken against any one being with the previous regime.
Second, the women could go back to their positions in the government, they would be allowed to work. Girls will have access to education. Women and girl children will have their freedom permissible under Shariah. Furthermore, Taliban assures that women would have health and employment opportunities under the framework of Shariah.
Third, the embassies of all countries will remain safe and secure. Fourth, people from other religions need not feel threatened by the restoration of Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan. In fact, Taliban leadership has met the Afghan Hindus, and Sikhs sheltered in Gurudwaras in Kabul. Fifth, media should follow three principles — impartiality, Afghan values and Islam.
The concern within Afghanistan and outside in the world is that Taliban may go back on their promises and postulates. This is a matter of speculation and indeed, this is where international community has an entry point. It can hold Taliban to their promises, and if they violate the globally recognised and mandated rights of Afghan citizens,the world community can react through UN framework. Further, armed interventions cannot be ruled out if Taliban repeats the illegal and anti-human rights practices of the past.
Intriguingly, western democracies have reacted self-righteously. Leaders from the democratic world have proclaimed that they will not recognise the government of Taliban acquired by force. The 15Security Council members of UN also have declared that they do not support the restoration of Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan that is Taliban rule. But is there a choice?
The West led by Americans could not help the peaceful and democratic transition. They could not defendDoha agreement signed with Taliban. In fact, Abdul Ghani Baradar, co-founder of Taliban, supposed to be the next president of Afghanistan, was released from Pakistan jail to negotiate and sign the agreement with Afghan government and Americans. That agreement fell apart.
At any rate, we are today with Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. New Delhi, along with others, could not stop it. They should now prepare to deal with them. Both Americans and other democracies in the world must ensure that human rights are not violated. Americans will have to sit back, reflect and restrategise on how they must intervene in other countries. Their image as a super power has been sullied by the strategic blunders in Afghanistan. In order to restore their status, they will have to quickly make course-connections. There is no point in chest-thumping on the bold decision of Biden to retreat from Kabul and leave the government in the lunch.
Likewise, New Delhi should work closely with Americans in monitoring the situation in Afghanistan and its geo-political consequences. New Delhi can no longer do social services in Afghanistan when life and security are at stake, and if Taliban becomes a spring board for cross-border terrorism. Hopefully, Taliban will behave better in their own interest, and those of their country. Let us be on watch. —INFA