India’s trade relations with the Taliban may be strained at best as commerce may soon be routed through Karachi and Gwadar. With Pakistan and China holding sway over the group, diplomatic relations with the Taliban will be a thorny issue.
It was just a week ago that the Taliban started seizing cities and districts across Afghanistan as the US troops retreated. Their stunning advance swiftly led them to Kabul, and on August 15, the Taliban captured the capital without any resistance. Thousands are fleeing Afghanistan, unwilling to live under Taliban rule. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has also fled the country, saying his presence would result in bloodshed.
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What Taliban rule means for India?
India, for now, is mainly occupied with bringing back Indians from Afghanistan. India had reduced investments in Afghanistan considerably in the last one year. In April, Indian staffers in its missions in Herat and Jalalabad were brought back. The Kandahar and Mazar consulates were shut down last month, leaving only the Kabul embassy open. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had also issued advisories asking Indians to head back to the country at the earliest.
How will it affect cross-border relations?
With the Taliban taking over Kabul, it is just a matter of time before terror groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammad get a free pass. It is known that these groups have been keeping bases and training grounds along the southern provinces that border Pakistan. Now, both the Pakistan military and intelligence services (ISI) would have a bigger say. They could also influence the Taliban to damage all India-made infrastructure and undo the development work initiated by New Delhi.
Though Suhail Shaheen, spokesperson for the Taliban, in an interview with ANI appreciated the infrastructure and development work executed by India, it remains to be seen how they will go forward with it. Shaheen warned that it will not bode well for India if they sent their military to Afghanistan.
Will India’s investments go waste?
Last year, India had announced investments worth Rs 600 crore in Afghanistan. This was in addition to the over Rs 2,200 crore which it has already invested over the years, and now there is a dark cloud over it.
Trade relations with the Taliban may be strained at best as trade may be routed through Karachi and Gwadar. India’s investment in the Chabahar Port may become unviable. India had invested in the port to bypass Pakistan and this move will most probably backfire.
The winners in this scenario would be the US and China as they have already announced the US-Uzbekistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan Quadrilateral. The Chinese have plans to link the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) with the trans-Afghanistan railroad and Belt and Road Projects.
With so much uncertainty, it is going to be difficult for India to maintain diplomatic ties with the Taliban as they can clearly be swayed by Pakistan and China. As the threat of radicalisation looming, India will also have to handle the prospect of women’s and minority rights being cast aside if the Taliban were to go back to their old ways.
(Edited by : Shoma Bhattacharjee)
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