Taliban Victory

AS the Taliban completed the takeover of Afghanistan, the US president Joe Biden in a televised address on Monday defended his government’s decision to exit the war-torn country, saying this was the right thing to do. He said the US should not have continued fighting in the country when Afghan forces themselves were not willing to do so. Biden acknowledged that the Taliban seizure of Kabul had “unfolded more quickly than they had anticipated,” but added that he stood squarely behind his decision to leave as he didn’t want to go back to fighting the Taliban “in the middle of the spring-fighting season.” Biden only spelt out the  cold reality of the current situation in Afghanistan that has left neither the US nor the world with any choice but to accept it.

Likewise, Taliban’s return to power is also a moment of truth for India. The country sees its investment in the development of the country over the last two decades going to waste. India has also had to close down all its consulates and the embassy. Two Indian Air Force C-17 transports flew into Kabul on August 15 to evacuate Indian embassy personnel, including Indo-Tibetan Border Police personnel who defended the mission.

The situation evokes the memory of the mid-nineties when the Taliban had toppled the then squabbling Mujahideen government. The US exit and the Taliban victory will alter the geopolitics of the region. It is likely to have massive security implications for the neighbours including for India and Pakistan. And the only way to deal with the unfolding situation is for the regional countries to cooperate. This is more urgent for India and Pakistan which have always been working at  cross-purposes in their dealings with Afghanistan. Pakistan has always wanted a pro-Islamabad regime in Kabul to achieve its alleged goal of strategic depth as a cushion against India. India, on the other hand, seeks a pro-New Delhi government to deny Pakistan this advantage.

There are now several factors at play: One is the larger geopolitics of the region with the unfolding situation in Afghanistan at its core. The Taliban victory has suddenly reduced India’s capacity to influence the outcome in the country. Accordingly, Pakistan is suddenly in a greater position of leverage.  The long-standing rivalry and suspicion between the two nations make the matters worse. It persuades them to act at cross-purposes in Kabul. And they would continue to do so until they reach an understanding between themselves.

The challenge before the two countries is not only to establish a dialogue to address their mutual issues but also to bring their divergent policies and positions on Afghanistan in line. With stakes in Kabul getting bigger and bigger with every passing day, much hinges on how the neighbours are able to handle and steer their relationship in the weeks and months to come.

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