India to lose its influence in Afghanistan
作者：IMDAD HUSSAIN JANJUA 世通研究院客座研究员
After decades of war in Afghanistan, India feels perturbed as it is monitoring with full attention as US forces prepare to leave Afghanistan. The decision to leave Afghanistan came after an agreement between the United States and the Taliban in Doha in 2020, while US President Joe Biden announced the US troops would return by September 11 -- the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attack on the United States.
However, experts believe that India's unrest is due to the absence of the US in the region. They say India's concerns are linked to instability in Afghanistan, the rise of the Taliban and the role of Pakistan and China as amidst all this India has always been a supporter of democratic governance in Afghanistan.
According to analyst Avinash Paliwal, Pakistan's growing intervention in Kabul will increase the risk of instability in Afghanistan. One of India's major concerns is the possible increase in Taliban power. In such a situation, Afghanistan could once again become a base for extremists.
According to Lisa Curtis, a member of the National Security Council in the Trump administration, withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan will concern countries in the region, especially India about the Taliban’s strengthening in Afghanistan.
Recently, India's Chief of Defense Staff Bipin Rawat has also expressed similar concerns over withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. India's concerns have also been compounded by alleged intelligence reports which say that in the event of withdrawal of American troops, extremist organizations are heading to Afghanistan in large numbers.
In 2019, When General Bipin Rawat was the head of the Indian Army; he had supported talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan. This was the period when India was adopting a policy of not having any kind of relations with the Taliban.
India has been avoiding direct talks with the Taliban though it sent an unofficial team to the Moscow peace conference on Afghanistan. Not only that, it has also been involved in several peace meetings in Afghanistan, including those in Doha, Geneva and Dushanbe.
However, India’s main concern is due to Pakistan's increased role in Afghanistan once the US troops go back home. In fact, Pakistan has played an important role in the talks between the US and the Taliban in Doha. Though Pakistan has direct or indirect links with Taliban but it has never supported extremism and also denied the charge equivocally while its record in the war against terrorism is enough proof to this end.
According to analysts, Pakistan's influence in Afghanistan cannot be ignored. Pakistan has an important role to play in Afghanistan not only because of its geographical, religious and ethnic proximity but also because it’s well being and prosperity as well as that of the region are linked with peace and stability in Afghanistan.
At the same time some analysts believe that Islamabad’s influence in Afghanistan may hurt India, however, analyst K N Pandita says, 'It is expected that Pakistan's leadership will be so sensible that it will not allow any such situation to arise.'
India's may also feel that Pakistan can help China in this area to extend its Belt and Road Initiative to Afghanistan as Chinese Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson Zhao Lijian has already talked about it and it is very much likely. But India needs to mend its ways and work for bringing in confidence building measures for peace and stability that would lead to inclusive development and growth in the region.
India with regard to China seems to be driven by India’s own guilt, the way it perceives and conceives self-centered polices while China is proponent of inclusive well being as propagated by President Xi Jinping i.e. "building a community with a shared future for mankind" to collectively address global challenges.
On the other hand, Pakistan has played an important role in pushing the Taliban to sign the agreement with the US. “Pakistan’s support has been very important in directing the Taliban to come to negotiations and their continued support is going to be very important as we go to this difficult period of deciding if the Taliban are actually serious about this and that they are going to live up to their commitments,” General Kenneth McKenzie, head of US Central Command had told a US Senate panel last year.
Since the beginning of the peace talks three years ago, Pakistan has earned a good reputation by playing an effective role as a mediator. The changing dynamics in Afghanistan indicate that New Delhi may be considering opening talks with the Taliban. Addressing the intra-Afghan talks last year, India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jai Shankar reiterated his country’s support for an “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, and Afghan-controlled” peace process and refrained from offering any view on the Taliban’s participation.
Last year, Zalmay Khalilzad, US special envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation, called on India to engage with the Afghan Taliban and “directly discuss its concerns related to terrorism,” adding that Washington wants New Delhi to “take on a more active role in the Afghan peace process.”
The Indian fears of losing solitary influence and involvement in Afghanistan in the absence of US troops may be true because Pakistan and China are better placed to carry out developmental activities in the war-ravaged country. In this scenario India should keep the ground realities in front and work for improving relations with its neighbors including Pakistan and China for peace and development in the region.
The writer, Mr. I. Hussain Janjua is a senior media professional and analyst having experience of research & broadcast journalism in different organisations. He is a non-resident fellow of Chengdu Institute of World Affairs (CIWA). (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; twitter: @ihussainjanjua)