Pakistan taunted India last week over its decision not to temporarily close consulates in Afghanistan. The country was experiencing intensifying fighting and the Taliban taking control of large swathes of the country. A spokesperson for Pakistan Army impliedly called India “spoilers” in Afghanistan, claiming that India’s investment in Afghanistan was “sinking” with the return to the Taliban.
After the Taliban entered the city’s doors, India closed its Kandahar consulate last week. About 50 security personnel and officials were evacuated from there. After having denied such plans, and only days after the US quickly evacuated Bagram Air Base in the middle of the night.
This was the third consulate that was temporarily closed since April 2020 when the Taliban returned and Covid-19 was a threat. India had already closed its consulates at Jalalabad and Herat in April 2020. India is clearly concerned about the safety of approximately 3,000 Afghan nationals and diplomats.
India, like all other countries that oppose terrorism, has supported Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani. After Afghanistan was devastated during civil war between the Taliban government-backed forces and the Taliban, India has been a partner for its reconstruction.
Since 2001, when the Taliban were expelled from Kabul by American forces, India has spent an estimated $3 billion on reconstruction.
India doesn’t have an official channel for communication with the Taliban. It was costly during the first Taliban regime in Afghanistan in the 1990s. But, it was a Washington Post article that suggested that India could be in talks to the Taliban at some point.
India isn’t the only country concerned about the Taliban’s return to Afghanistan. This is the main topic of discussion at the shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), at the two-day meeting of its foreign ministers in DushanbeAbout 1,000 Afghan soldiers fled to the safety of their own lives from the Taliban-surrounded capital of Tajikistan.
It is interesting to note that Pakistan, which is believed to be heavily involved in the affairs in Afghanistan of the Taliban through the Pakistan Army’s Inter-State Intelligence program (ISI), has its own problems with the Taliban’s rise.
Pakistan shares a long border with Afghanistan. The rise of the Taliban has exacerbated fear and insecurity among non-Pashtun communities, especially in the border regions. It could lead to conflicts between tribal militias on the Pakistani side.
The Taliban took control of Afghanistan last year and had already targeted areas bordering Pakistan’s Baluchistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. According to reports from Pakistan, people in Baluchistan are concerned that their farms might be taken away again and that they may be forced to leave.
Baluchistan is facing an insurgency problem as a result of the alleged persecution by the Pakistan Army (and other government agencies) of the Baloch ethnic group. According to recent reports, Imran Khan, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, is reaching out towards Baloch leaders in response to the Taliban’s growing pressure on Afghanistan’s borders following the US withdrawal.
There is also the Pakistan Taliban, which is different to the Taliban fighting in Afghanistan. The Pakistan Taliban would like to place Pakistan under a stricter Sharia regime than that currently in effect in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
China shares a small borderline with Afghanistan via its restive Xinjiang Province. Reports have suggested that the Taliban is sympathetic to Uighur Muslims who oppose the Chinese communist government. China is concerned that the Taliban could help the East Turkistan Islamic Movement, (ETIM), once Afghanistan has been stabilized.
The ETIM is a separatist group based in Xinjiang. This is the home of Uighur Muslims from China. Xinjiang borders Afghanistan’s Badakhshan Province, which the Taliban recently seized from Afghan government forces.
In 2006, the US banned the East Turkistan Islamic Movement of Xinjiang. It declared it one of the most dangerous terrorist organizations. Only the Donald Trump administration lifted the ban in 2020.
China is reportedly building a road through Afghanistan’s famous Wakhan Corridor, linking Badakhshan province with its own Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. The Wakhan Corridor will allow direct access to Xinjiang’s Chinese areas once it is completed.
Dushanbe is currently the closest city to people who live in the Wakhan Corridor.
TAJIKISTAN TO RUSSIA
Afghanistan shares its borders with Iran, Pakistan Tajikistan Turkmenistan Turkmenistan Turkmenistan Turkmenistan Uzkistan China, India, China, and India (though the Ladakh region of India is still under Pakistani occupation since 1947-48).
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is a member of all these countries, except Iran and Turkmenistan. It held a meeting at Dushanbe. Russia, Kirghizstan, and Kazakhstan are also founding members of the SCO.
Uzbekistan and Tajikistan worry that the Taliban’s return could lead to ethnic migration. In 1990, the Taliban established its first rule declaring Burhanuddin Rabbani, an ethnic Tajik, as anti-Pashtun.
Turkmenistan, Kirghizstan, and Kazakhstan fear an increase in Islamic extremism. These countries are home to several Islamic extremist groups with links to Afghan outfits.
Russia has played a significant role in Afghanistan’s history and was recently involved in negotiations with the Taliban. Any ripple effect from the Taliban takingover of Afghanistan in its neighbouring countries puts Russia’s strategic interests in Uzbekistan or Tajikistan in peril.
This is why India and many other Asian countries view the return of Taliban as a security problem despite Pakistani and Chinese rumours that they are looking to play a strategic role in Afghanistan.