From fighters to rulers: on Taliban

India must use its voice on the international stage to make Taliban respect freedoms, rights

Updated - September 07, 2021 10:12 am IST

Published - September 07, 2021 12:02 am IST

After postponing the announcement twice, Taliban spokesmen have said that they expect to have a new government in Afghanistan this week. There has been some speculation over the delay, more than three weeks after Taliban gunmen walked into Kabul and President Ashraf Ghani fled. While some have said the Taliban were waiting to take control of the last hold-out province of Panjshir, and others even suggested there was some symbolism attached to timing it with the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the real reason appears to be differences within various Taliban factions over the government’s structure and composition. In particular, the differences between the Taliban leadership in Helmand, Kandahar, and the political office in Doha, seen as the more “moderate” face, as well as between the “original” Afghan Taliban leadership and the Pakistan-based Haqqani network, a designated terror entity. The jockeying is reportedly over cabinet portfolios, the appointment of governors in the 34 provinces, control of the cities and the possibility of including non-Taliban Afghan leaders. Reports of the differences have escalated and the appearance in Kabul of the Pakistan ISI chief, Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed, is believed to have been an attempt to smooth over the cracks in government formation. At the base of the differences is the tussle between the Taliban’s push to consolidate their takeover of Afghanistan and implement an Islamist agenda, and the desire to receive recognition from the international community and its continued financial support.

News Analysis: Panjshir Valley falls to Taliban as new power struggle emerges in Afghanistan


The outcome holds the key not only to the future of Afghanistan but also to New Delhi’s engagement with the new regime. Any government that gives the Haqqani group key positions will make it difficult for India to have a role in either diplomacy or development projects in Afghanistan, given previous terror attacks. Any overt role for Pakistan, as well as China, will also raise red flags for New Delhi. The Modi government has announced that it is now engaging the Taliban, with the first publicly acknowledged meeting in Doha last week; the MEA says it conveyed concerns on the safety of Indians in Afghanistan and ensuring Afghan soil is not used for attacks in India. Any engagement with the Taliban beyond this is contingent on the composition of the new power structure and how much the new government in Afghanistan is amenable to international expectations of it, in terms of representation, rights, and in allowing UN agencies to monitor development. To this end, India must use its voice on the international stage forcefully. This includes blocking any move at the UNGA and UNSC to recognise the new regime, and stopping the delisting or exemptions to Taliban leaders at the 1988 sanctions committee, which India chairs, until the Taliban regime shows a willingness to comply.

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