HOW SHOULD INDIA RESPOND TO AFGHANISTAN

GEOGRAPHY:

          Afghanistan is a landlocked country surrounded by Pakistan, Tajikistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and China. Despite holding over $1 trillion in proven untapped mineral deposits, Afghanistan remains one of the least developed countries in the world.

HISTORY:

          — In April 1978, Afghanistan’s centrist government was overthrown by left-wing military officers, which had little popular support, and which forged close ties with the Soviet Union, launched ruthless purges of all domestic opposition, and began extensive land and social reforms, that were bitterly resented by the devoutly Muslim and largely anti-communist population.

          –Insurgencies arose against the government among both tribal and urban groups, and all of these were known collectively as the Mujahideen.

          –Backed by the United States, the Mujahideen rebellion grew, spreading to all parts of the country.

          — After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, in 1988, the Soviet Union signed an accord with the United States, Pakistan, and Afghanistan and agreed to withdraw its troops. On February 15, 1989, Afghanistan returned to its nonaligned status.

          –Pakistan’s spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was interested in a trans-national Islamic revolution that would cover Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia. With Pakistan’s support, the Taliban was formed in September 1994 in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Taliban has close links with Al-Qaeda, a militant outfit and the Haqqani network based in Pakistan.

          –The Taliban, with military support from Pakistan and financial support from Saudi Arabia, seized Kabul on September 27, 1996, and established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

THE NORTHERN ALLIANCE:

          –The Northern Alliance, was a military alliance of groups that operated between late 1996 to 2001 after the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (Taliban) took over Kabul. The United Front was originally assembled by key leaders of the Islamic State of Afghanistan, particularly former Defense Minister Ahmad Shah Massoud.

          –The Northern Alliance fought a defensive war against the Taliban government. They received support from India, Iran, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, the United States and Uzbekistan, while the Taliban were extensively backed by the Pakistan Army and Inter-Services Intelligence. By 2001 the Northern Alliance controlled less than 10% of the country.

          –On 9 September 2001, Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was a powerful guerrilla commander even during the resistance against the Soviet occupation, was assassinated by two Arab suicide attackers inside Afghanistan. Two days later about 3,000 people became victims of the September 11 attacks in the United States, when Afghan-based Al-Qaeda suicide bombers hijacked planes and flew them into four targets in the Northeastern United States.

          –Amidst the Fall of Kabul in 2021, former Northern Alliance leaders and other anti-Taliban figures have regrouped as the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan.

THE US OPERATIONS:

          –The then US President George W. Bush accused Osama bin Laden, the Al-Qaeda Chief for the attack.

          — When the Taliban refused to hand over Bin Laden to the  US authorities and to disband Al-Qaeda bases in Afghanistan, ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ was launched in which teams of American and British special forces worked with commanders of the United Front (Northern Alliance) against the Taliban.

          –On 2nd May 2011, Osama Bin Laden was killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Also, ‘Operation Knife Edge’ was launched by NATO (the US plus the EU) and Afghan forces against the Haqqani network in south-eastern Afghanistan.

          –The NATO forces as well as the US were never able to eliminate the Taliban. They remained in pockets across Afghanistan.

TALIBAN AND ITS ECONOMY:

          –Taliban runs a sophisticated financial network and taxation system to pay for insurgent operations.

          — Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of opium. The opium poppy is big business, supplying the majority of illicit heroin worldwide. The group earns money from taxes imposed at several stages of the process. A 10% cultivation tax is collected from opium farmers. Taxes are also collected from the laboratories converting opium into heroin, as well as the traders who smuggle the illicit drugs.

          –Taliban collects taxes from traders transporting goods through areas it controlled. It also continues drawing revenue from businesses such as telecommunications and mobile phone operators in its areas.

          –The mining industry of the country is worth at least $1billion. But, most of the extraction is small scale and illegal. By taking control of the mining sites, the Taliban raised a dependable source of extortion from ongoing legal and illegal mining operations.

          — Another grey area which several Afghan and US officials have long highlighted is of secret aids to Taliban from Pakistan, Iran and Russia. Moreover, private citizens from Pakistan and the Gulf countries including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar are considered the largest individual contributors.

US DESERTS AFGHANISTAN:

          –In 2021, the United States forces and the allies withdrew from Afghanistan, which allowed the Taliban to intensify their insurgency. On 15 August 2021, as the Taliban entered Kabul, President Ghani fled to Tajikistan, and the U.S.-backed Afghan government collapsed.

          –The Doha talks had sidelined the elected government to a great extent and the US-Taliban deal, based on Doha talks, was hastened for a quick withdrawal, without responsibility. This haste has left many allies, partners, interpreters, various company staff members who had helped the NATO and the US during their operations in Afghanistan in a precarious situation, desperation and despair; many flocking the borders and airport for fear of life, after the US and NATO withdrawal.

          –Evacuation plan is underway once the airport starts functioning, but many developed countries have expressed reservations about hosting Afghans and are trying their best to resettle them in the neighbouring countries.

          –Taliban has now over-run government offices, some militants are going door-to-door with an intention of revenge attacks on officials of previous government, the US, British and NATO allies and partners, imposing dogmatic laws, preventing women from working in the name of security, attacking translators and interpreters, parading the war spoils on roads and instilling fear.

          –The common people of Afghanistan had suffered earlier and are suffering today too, because of food shortage, water crisis, and non-functioning banking systems; though some are viewing this as a relief from the previous corrupt government. The common Afghan people had also suffered heavy casualties from rocket shelling and airstrikes of NATO and the US.

CHINA VIEWS PROFITS IN AFGHANISTAN:

          –Only hours after the Taliban overran Afghanistan, China said that it has maintained contact and communication with the Afghan Taliban and played a constructive role in promoting the political settlement of the Afghan issue.         

          –Beijing will urge the Taliban, which called China an ‘important partner’, to deny safe haven to Uyghur fighters and other groups that could destabilize Central Asia or harm Chinese interests in the region or at home.

          –China would explore opportunities to benefit from Afghanistan’s rich mineral deposits and incorporate Afghanistan into its Belt and Road Initiative.

ROLE OF INDIA:

          –The 2011 India-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Agreement recommitted Indian assistance to help rebuild Afghanistan’s infrastructure and institutions, education and technical assistance for capacity-building in many areas, encourage investment in Afghanistan and provide duty-free access to the Indian market. Bilateral trade is now worth $1 billion.

          — India built vital roads, dams, electricity transmission lines and substations, schools and hospitals, etc. India’s development assistance is now estimated to be worth well over $3 billion. And unlike in other countries where India’s infrastructure projects have barely got off the ground or are mired in the host nation’s politics, it has delivered in Afghanistan. This includes the Afghan Parliament in Kabul and two air corridors — Kabul-Delhi and Herat-Delhi.

INDIA’S EVACUATION PROGRAMME:

          –The Ministry of External Affairs has set up a special Afghanistan cell to coordinate repatriation and other requests from the war-ravaged country.

          –India’s complex mission to evacuate its citizens and Afghan partners from Kabul after its swift takeover by the Taliban has been named as “Operation Devi Shakti”.

               –India evacuated the Indian embassy staff from Kabul on August 17 in a difficult and complicated exercise.

          –C-17 Globemaster heavy-lift transport aircraft of the IAF and C-130J Super Hercules aircraft were pressed into action to land at the Hindon Air Base Delhi, and Jamnagar Airbase, Gujarat.

          –After landing in India, the evacuees are even vaccinated with the Anti-Polio virus.

WAY FORWARD FOR INDIA:

          –The UNSC resolution 2593 (2021) under India’s presidency highlighted the key issues of the evacuation of at-risk Afghan nationals, foreign nationals and their allies, and those who wish to leave the country for the fear of life, by a providing them a safe passage. Besides, it also calls for combating terrorism, upholding human rights including the rights of women, children and minorities.

          –India’s major concern is terrorism emanating from Afghan soil. The main issue is sheltering, training and financing of terrorists.

          –With the congratulatory messages from organisations like Al-Qaeda, giving a shout out to liberate Kashmir, India has to remain vigilant and cautious in its approach.

          –Any haste in giving recognition to the Taliban will mean legitimizing their oppression and terror.

          –The situation is dynamic and right now the safety of our people – Indian nationals, those who worked at Indian missions in Afghanistan, partners, minorities and at-risk Afghan nationals – is important. Safeguarding our interest is equally important, and hence engagement through interlocutor level talks, ground intelligence engagement through NSA and sub-government-level talks should continue.

          –The Doha talks with the US, called for dehyphenation of terror groups, but the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, Haqqani Network, ISI, Pakistan Army and even ISIS do not seem to be dehyphenated; they are very much in close alliance. Any blind trust, based on their rhetoric and compulsions of the time will have negative ramifications as to the security of our country.

          –Engineering projects are already handed over. We can train their nationals if needed, but sending our engineers and technicians to Afghanistan to complete their remaining projects, even if called for, won’t be fruitful, given the volatile situation, Taliban proximity to terror groups and the possibility of kidnappings. Any further investments should be conditional. Their treatment towards minorities, the Northern Resistance Forces, should also be closely observed.

REFERENCES:

Geography of Afghanistan – Wikipedia

Economy of Afghanistan – Wikipedia

Taliban: Driving its economic agenda through drugs and taxation-571972 (daily-sun.com)

Soviet invasion of Afghanistan | Summary & Facts | Britannica

History of Afghanistan – Wikipedia

Afghanistan: Taliban impact on Pakistan, India, China, Russia, Iran (cnbc.com)

World reacts as Taliban closes in on Afghan capital | Taliban News | Al Jazeera

Explained: What are India’s investments in Afghanistan? | Explained News, The Indian Express

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