August 15 is a historical day for the countries in south asia. Lately, Afghanistan has named itself in the list with the reestablishment of Taliban regime. A quite interesting tweet came across to netizens, where Faisal Rauf wrote: “Taliban gave away Afghanistan to USA for 20 years on lease. They built all the infrastructures & cities. India built roads & dams. And now Taliban taking it back improved Afghanistan with no loans on infrastructures. Smart Strategy! “
Indeed, as the US troops began to leave the country, the Taliban took control of large cities such as Herat, Aibak and Ghazni. The fall of Kabul was just a matter of time. Since then, speculation has been rife that President Ashraf Ghani could flee the country if the Taliban invaded Kabul. That’s what happened in the end. After the militants entered Kabul that afternoon, President Ashraf Ghani resigned and fled the country.
However, the discussions are underway for a peaceful transition of the power. Taliban leaders have been in talks with former President Hamid Karzai and Abdullah, the leader of the peace process. Speaking at the Taliban’s first press conference in Kabul on the evening of the 18th, spokesman Yabihullah said the Taliban wanted to form a government with all political parties. And Afghan women will get job opportunities in various sectors including education and health.
The most important thing is that no Afghan will be called for cooperating with the occupiers in the past. All have been pardoned and opposition leaders who have left the country have been called upon to return to work with the Taliban in the formation of Afghanistan. “Twenty years ago, our country was a Muslim state,” even today our country is a Muslim state. But in terms of experience, maturity and outlook, there is a huge difference between the Taliban of today and the Taliban of twenty years ago,” says Taliban spokesman Jabiullah Mujahid.
While the world is worried about the country’s future at the hand of Taliban, Beijing, Moscow and Islamabad have reacted differently. Most countries are urgently repatriating their diplomats from their embassies in Kabul, but the three countries are signaling continued ties with Afghanistan. China has said it is ready to deepen its “friendly and cooperative” relationship with Afghanistan. Russia says it has no plans to remove its diplomats from Kabul. And Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that the people of Afghanistan have finally “broken the chains of slavery.”
After leaving the United States, China has ample opportunity to involve Afghanistan in its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) project. At the same time, China is greedy for Afghanistan’s mineral resources. But the stability of Afghanistan is now more important to China than the pursuit of direct economic interests.
But the question is, how is it possible for Communist China to have a trusting relationship with a hard-line Sunni group? The current Taliban is much more realistic than it was 20 years ago. They went to Moscow for support and talked to Russia. Even as a staunch Sunni Wahhabi, Taliban leaders have spoken out with Shia Iran, and there are strong indications that Iranian support has been able to garner sympathy. In addition, the influence of Pakistan, a close ally of the Taliban, is another factor in China’s confidence. At the same time, the Taliban understand that they need China to stay in power and rebuild Afghanistan.
From the Taliban’s takeover, India would suffer the most, with about 400 projects underway in Afghanistan. China may finish these projects. However, it seems that India will establish diplomatic relations with the Taliban. As India has invested heavily in Afghanistan, they won’t let their investment go into oblivion. Since the US government has left, India alone will not want to have a bad relationship with Taliban or get involved in any conflict.
On the other hand, there is a risk of new unrest in Indian-controlled Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan’s intelligence agency, ISI, could use Taliban’s return to power to fuel militant activity in Jammu and Kashmir. Then, the situation in the Valley could change. As has been seen in the past, Pakistan pushed a section of Taliban to the Kashmir front after seizing power in Afghanistan. Taliban militants are far more trained and experienced in combat than local militants. As a result, handling them is much more challenging for India. Naturally, after the capture of Kabul, a large number of Taliban fighters will become unemployed. The ISI can use them on the front lines in Kashmir.” Pakistan was one of only three countries to recognize the Taliban government in 1996. However, a Pak-Afghan mutual tie is yet uncertain. The Durand Line is one of the factors.
The Durand Line Treaty of 1893 marked the 2640 km long border between Afghanistan and British India. Due to which, large parts of Pashtun and Balochistan were lost to Afghanistan. The Pathan and Baloch tribes were divided on both sides of the border. Since then, Afghanistan has become a landlocked country. Until 1947, the border did not have much effect on the daily life of the tribes living in the area. But after 1947, trouble broke out, when the British left the region and a country called Pakistan was born. As the British prepared to leave India, Afghanistan loudly demanded its borders be amended. But Britain then refused the request. And somehow it forced the old border on Afghanistan. They declared that it won’t accept this Durand Line. The Pashtun and Baloch regions within Pakistan are termed as its own territory. This Durand Line has been discussed many times since then. During the Cold War, hostility between the USA and the Soviet Union spread between Afghanistan and Pakistan, hampering the resolution of the Durand Line. In 1996, Pakistan sought recognition of the Durand Line from Taliban. But Taliban refused to recognize. In the last 20 years, no US-backed government in Afghanistan has recognized the Durand Line. Incumbent President Ashraf Ghani has even called on Taliban not to accept the Durand Line when they come.
As the Taliban state is almost certain to come to power, Pakistan would expect them to recognize the current border. The Taliban, on the other hand, originates from the Pashtun ethnic group. So accepting this line is tantamount to betraying the Pashtuns. So the question is whether Taliban accept the Durand Line or stand against Pakistan for their rights & solve the problem hanging for 128 years? Time will say best. Taliban’s conquest of Kabul will evoke a passion for Islamic politics and Islamist parties in South Asia. In particular, the rural simple-minded Muslim population will lean towards the Islamists.
There are many differences between the former Taliban and the current Taliban. The bigotry seems to have diminished a lot & their current role is very pragmatic. Let them decide who will be the government of Afghanistan, but let it be free from any foreign aggression, and let everyone live in peace.
The writer is independent analyst on national & international issues.