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Message to Taliban must be firm

India’s engagement with Afghanistan's Taliban regime has reached an important milestone
Last Updated : 13 June 2022, 20:42 IST
Last Updated : 13 June 2022, 20:42 IST

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India’s engagement with Afghanistan's Taliban regime has reached an important milestone. A delegation of senior Indian officials visited Kabul recently and met acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi. India sought to downplay the visit; it said that the meeting was about humanitarian aid issues. However, the meeting was significant. This was the first official Indian visit to Kabul since the Indian embassy there was shut down in August last year when the Taliban stormed to power. Besides, the two sides reportedly discussed diplomatic relations. India is the only regional power that does not have a diplomatic presence in the Afghan capital currently. Not having such a presence is hurting India’s interests as it has left the space open for other powers, especially rivals, to undermine India’s interests. With the Taliban coming to power, India’s relationship with Afghanistan’s new rulers was non-existent. This needed to be corrected urgently, as India has economic and strategic interests in Afghanistan and Central Asia. New Delhi has been mulling over how it should deal with a regime that is medieval in its mindset and openly misogynist. Additionally, the Taliban’s traditional proximity to Pakistan remains a point of concern. Is the regime still a Pakistani proxy and could it act on Islamabad’s orders to undermine India’s interests?

Serious differences between the Pakistan military and the Taliban regime have erupted to the fore in recent months, suggesting that relations between the two are complicated, opening up the possibility of the Taliban pursuing a relatively independent foreign policy, one that is not reflexively anti-Indian. This may have pushed South Block to decide in favour of rethinking India’s relationship with the Taliban.

Establishing a diplomatic presence does not mean recognition of the regime. Nor is it an endorsement of the regime’s policies. It provides Delhi with official channels to voice Indian concerns and protect Indian interests. Delhi should use its diplomats to convey its concerns to the Taliban. A recent United Nations report says that the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed are running several camps in Afghanistan. This is unacceptable. India must reiterate to the Taliban that allowing anti-India terrorists to train and operate on Afghan soil is a hostile act. Several of these camps are located in areas under Taliban control. By allowing these camps to operate, the Taliban is crossing a red line, which Delhi cannot tolerate. The Taliban regime must understand that diplomatic relations are a two-way street. India can provide aid to Afghanistan but only if Kabul is sensitive to Indian security concerns.

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Published 13 June 2022, 17:29 IST

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