Context: Islamic Republic of Afghanistan announced the closure of its Embassy in Delhi.
More about the news:
- The embassy was representing the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan which had been deposed by the Taliban in August 2021.
- After the displacement of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the embassy was working as a “stateless mission” as it did not represent the current Taliban regime, with whom India has no diplomatic relationship.
- India has maintained a “technical team”, which provides visas to Afghan traders and travellers to India. India is also sending humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people.
India’s Informal engagement with Taliban regime in Afghanistan
- Currently, no country has formally recognised the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. However, China has a full-fledged ambassador in Afghanistan. Other countries like Iran, Pakistan, Russia, UAE, Qatar and China also have deeper relations with the Afghan regime. This puts pressure on India to have relations with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
- India has not formally recognised the current Taliban regime in Afghanistan (Known as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) due to the poor human rights record of the Taliban government especially their treatment of women and the Taliban government being non-inclusive.
- Despite the closure of the embassy and non-recognition of the Taliban regime by India, India has continued to engage with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan using a ‘technical team’ in Kabul. This technical team provides visas to Afghan traders and travellers to India.
- Currently, two weekly flights carry Afghan citizens and goods to India. India uses these flights to send humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people.
- Indian goods are also sent to Afghanistan through other countries like Iran and UAE.
- Indian diplomats have met the Taliban’s representative in multiple locations under multilateral initiatives like the recently concluded Moscow Format in September 2023.
- The Taliban regime is also urging India to support it with its economic revitalisation through projects like electricity generation, and road construction.
India’s concerns with Taliban ruled Afghanistan
- Support for Terrorism by Taliban regime
- Support for poppy cultivation and promotion of narco-terrorism by Taliban
- Close relations between Taliban and Pakistan army which can be harnessed by Pakistan to use Taliban as a safe haven for anti-Indian activity.
- Poor human rights record especially regressive treatment of women.
- Non-inclusive nature of Taliban regime which is dominated by certain Pashtun tribes and does not represent the entire Afghan community.
Importance of cultivating relations with Taliban regime
- Safeguard India’s interests with Taliban regime
- Location of Afghanistan as a crossroad for India’s engagement with Central Asian Republics
- Ensuring India’s energy security as India can import gas through TAPI Pipeline via Afghanistan.
- Controlling terrorism in India and the wider neighbourhood.
- Good image of India among the common Afghan citizens can help India build quick relations with the Taliban.
- Limiting Pakistan’s control over Afghanistan necessitates India to have engagement and closer relations with the Taliban.
- India is considering realpolitik to initiate any engagement with the Taliban, however, the deep-seated principles and relations with the region’s countries, bring ambiguity in its policy towards the new regime in Afghanistan, which is also impacting India’s interests.
- A major challenge remains the Taliban’s adherence to Sharia law and severe restrictions around the movement of women.
- Two factors can influence the Indian government’s future approach.
- Strong people-to-people ties: India has benefited from its ties with Afghan elites and there exists considerable goodwill towards India among Afghan citizens.
- Humanitarian assistance: Given the Taliban’s appeal for better ties, the Indian government can leverage its position through aid and assistance.