New Delhi, Old Tactics

The on-going TTP onslaught and misadventures by Afghan border forces against Islamabad serve as the pressure tactics towards the reversal of the merger of FATA.

By Ali Hassan Bangwar | March 2023

Over a year and a half has passed to the fall of Kabul, Afghanistan stands isolated and unrecognized in the comity of nations. On account of Taliban’s utter disregard for international commitments and prerequisites of statehood, no state has so far shown an explicit intention of recognising it. Nevertheless, the Kabul of today couldn’t escape the implied attention of the countries vying to claim the anticipatory influence. What adds to its scope in the international eyes, despite standing unrecognised, is its geopolitical, geostrategic and historical significance.

Situated at the crossroads of Central Asia, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent, Afghanistan enjoyed a key role in the Asian geo-political gamble. It claims a distinctive transport and transit axis since the classical Silk Road. Besides, its centrality in context to the historically great power chessboard has made the country the centre of global politics, competition and cooperation. The local, regional and international actors and states have interfered with and influenced the internal political, social and economic dynamics of Afghanistan for decades.

However, the takeover of the Taliban has radically altered the context of interests and terms of engagement. The countries, including its neighbours, reassess and reorient the nature of the relationship with Kabul under the Taliban. Against the backdrop of the on-going fluid geopolitical realities and realignments unfolding in Asia, India is vying for spreading its tentacles in Afghanistan. To this end, New Delhi has been so doing its best in strengthening its cardinality with its erstwhile foe, the Taliban.

In this, Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval at a regional security summit held in late May in Tajikistan urged the neighbouring countries to fund the counter-terrorism efforts in the war-ravaged Afghanistan. Moreover, an Indian delegation, led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Joint Secretary, JP Sindh, met the Taliban leaders in earlier June 2022. This was followed by another immediate development-the reopening of the Indian embassy in Kabul later the same month. Apart from the diplomatic ties, India promises regional security and humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.

Since the current Taliban leadership, unlike its predecessor, is postured towards realism and pragmatism in forging bilateral ties, the Indian diplomatic posture, therefore, is received by the Taliban government as a welcome development in securing latter’s national interests. Kabul hopes that Indian investment would help them relieve their economic crisis by reviving the development projects’ investment.

Though New Delhi had been deeply involved in deep diplomatic and economic engagement in Afghanistan under Hamid Karzai and Ashraf Ghani, the relations between the two countries did freeze in the aftermath of the Taliban’s takeover.

Though the Indian authority claims humanitarian motivations behind the strengthening of ties with Afghanistan, experts and analysts view the engagement in the context of New Delhi’s geopolitical rivalry with Pakistan and China. Some experts also view these developments in the USA as part of containment efforts against its strategic competitor, Beijing. Moreover, India’s aggressive posture and counterbalancing strategy against Pakistan’s earlier stakes in the Taliban also contribute to this rapprochement.

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