In a surprising statement, the Taliban has put forth its willingness to indulge in official talks with India. The current peace-talks between the United States and the Taliban, popularly being called the Doha Agreement, is what lies at the crux of this offer.
The Taliban, an inherently hardcore Islamist and Jihadi organisation had implemented Sharia law in its crudest form during its rule over Afghanistan. Sadly for them, this rule came to an end with the US led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. The US onslaught resulted in the overthrow of the Taliban government and it was reduced to a mere insurgent group in the country. Although it controls certain regions of the country, large portions are now governed by the Afghanistan government, which has the support of the US and NATO allies as well. India too recognizes only this government as the stakeholder of Afghanistan. In fact, India has never legitimized the Taliban, leave alone them being a part of the government.
It has been established beyond doubt that the Taliban, ISI and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen were explicitly involved in the IC814 hijacking. The then IB chief and current NSA, Ajit Doval stated that things would have been much easier for India to handle if the Taliban and ISI were not in bed together for this hijack. As a result of the hijack, India was forced to release Masood Azhar, among other Islamists to the hijackers, who then smuggled them back to Pakistan. The Taliban gheraoed the IC814 jet at Kandahar airport and formed a security parameter for the hijackers.
The offer of talks by Taliban assumes significance as of now. India has never shown any intentions of indulging in talks with this Jihadi organisation, unlike China, US and even Russia. However, with the Peace Treaty in progress with the US, the Taliban now seems to have realised that they cannot afford to be in the bad books with India. It is a recognition of India’s immense influence in the region.
The US withdrawal from Afghanistan would directly imply a change in the power structure and composition of Afghanistan. In all likelihood, the Taliban would be made an equal partner of the government in the country, while there are also whispers of a complete transfer of power to it. In such a scenario, it is imperative for them to try and initiate talks with India. Not only has the Taliban offered talks, but also there seems to be an apologetic tone in which they do so.
The IC814 Hijacking is an event India will never forget, or forgive. Moreover, that incident is still seen to be an impediment to talks between India and the Taliban. “Taking aircraft is against our stated policy. We were pushed into the middle of this incident and tried to resolve the situation as peacefully as possible. Back then, the Indian government had expressed its appreciation to the Taliban for the release of the aircraft and the hostages,” the Hindu quoted a senior source within the Taliban as saying.
Now, whether the government appreciated the Taliban or not is a subject to be discussed at another occasion. What needs to be discussed, however, is the sudden urgency within the Taliban ranks to talk with almost everyone, particularly India. India has made massive investments in Afghanistan, which includes the Afghan-India Friendship Dam. The Taliban was not even looked at by India while it pursued these mega infrastructural projects in Afghanistan.
It is also interesting to note that a few days ago Pakistan had tried to link the Kashmir issue with Afghanistan, however, Taliban clearly rebuked Pakistan and stated that Afghanistan issue has nothing to do with Kashmir.
Pakistan’s opposition leader in the Parliament, Shehbaz Sharif tried to draw comparison between Kashmir and Afghanistan and said, “What kind of a deal is this that the Afghans enjoy and celebrate peace in Kabul, but in Kashmir, blood is shed? No, this is not acceptable for us.”
Following that Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahed released a statement which stated, “Linking the issue of Kashmir with that of Afghanistan by some parties will not aid in improving the crisis at hand because the issue of Afghanistan is not related nor should Afghanistan be turned into the theatre of competition between other countries.”
To put things simply, Taliban needs India now more than ever and its near apologetic statement is a clear sign of Taliban’s recognition of India as a regional super power. It recognizes that India cannot be ignored if Afghanistan is to flourish. Sane thought, I’d say.