India’s Afghan policy in tatters

As the deadline for withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan nears, the entire world is facing uncertainty. The Taliban, who have taken over the country, have made it clear that they won’t accept any further extension post 31 August, which is the deadline for the foreign forces to leave the country. There is so much fear and uncertainty over which direction the country will move after the withdrawal of the foreign forces. India, which has deeply invested in Afghanistan in the last 20 years, is among those that are still to decide how to proceed following the Taliban takeover. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to ask the MEA to brief all parliamentary parties on the government’s actions in Afghanistan comes as questions grow about the government’s planning for contingencies there, with the Taliban’s takeover.

In the past 20 years, India has built considerable interests, including major infrastructure projects and ongoing development projects, helped script the Afghan constitution and conduct of elections, as well as enabled the training and education of the next generation of officials, soldiers and professionals. It seems unfortunate, therefore, that this bank of goodwill has come to naught as the government decided it was safer to pull out all the Indians, including the ambassador. Going forward, the government must explain how it expects to approach the new regime in Afghanistan once it is formed. It is still unclear whether this will be merely a repeat of the brutal Taliban regime seen from 1996-2001, or whether negotiations are underway for a more inclusive coalition, including several former leaders of Afghanistan, to fructify into a transitional government. The rise of Taliban power and that of the group’s Pakistani backers is a particular security concern as groups such as the LeT and the JeM could use Afg
hanistan as a staging base for terror attacks in India. The Afghan policy will have serious repercussions on the foreign policy success of PM Modi.