Afghanistan, often touted as a ‘Graveyard of Empires’, is on the verge of becoming a 7th-century grave itself. After almost nearly fifty years of its establishment as a republic, the landlocked country has not been able to establish itself even as a developing nation. Its location at the crossroads of Central and South Asia is an impediment to development as well as a blessing if managed well. During the cold war, it was held in a crossfire between the USA led block trying to oust USSR backed government in Kabul. After that, the Taliban era and the US invasion after 9/11 made sure that Afghanistan is always ravaged by war.
Recently, US troops were the latest in the line of foreign Empires to withdraw from Afghanistan after leaving the country in tatters. Afghanis on their own are susceptible to Pakistan and China from outside and barbaric Taliban from Inside. Taliban which is brazenly backed by Pakistan is the biggest threat to India’s national interests. Having outlasted a superpower, the Taliban is said to be strongest since 2001 with more than 85,000 full-time fighters with financial support from opium and drug trafficking. Estimates suggest that they have captured anywhere between one-third and one-fifth of the area, with some areas swinging back and forth between them and government forces.
If any country needs an alarm bell regarding the red zone (apt colour to represent as red signifies danger), it is India. Its geographical location and strategic interest in the country is too big to ignore now. India has taken more than 400 projects in all 34 provinces of Afghanistan including vital roads, dams, electricity transmission lines, substations, schools, and hospitals. The current Afghani Parliament building has also been built by India. The 42MW Salma dam also known as Afghanistan India friendship dam is another significant infrastructural gift by India to the Afghani people, though it is now under the control of the Taliban. India is now the biggest regional and fifth largest overall investor in Afghanistan with investment now amounting to $3billion. India has also built stadiums and provided domestic infrastructural facilities for budding Afghani players in India.
The Taliban-Pakistan bond is growing at a rapid pace with the Pakistani establishment openly advocating for Air support to Taliban in its terrorist strikes against the Afghan Civilian army in the Spin Boldak region. Pakistan is trying to establish the Taliban as its Puppet Government to establish its influence in Asia. Pakistan’s terrorist resources are now distributed between its Kashmir cause and anti-Pak groups in Afghanistan as well as inside Pakistan. After establishing itself in Afghanistan, it will carry out its terror activity in Kashmir. Recently, the Taliban seized India’s Mi-35 attack helicopter. As the Taliban grows in size and stature, Indians are evacuating Afghanistan at a rapid pace, leaving Indian interests at stake. Indians’ evacuation will ensure that Afghanistan’s untapped mineral potential of approximately $1trillion will fall into the hands of the Pakistan-China Nexus.
Taliban wants full implementation of sharia law taking Afghani culture 1,000-1,500 years back. As foreign minister S Jaishankar remarked, ‘Afghanistan’s future shouldn’t be a return to the past’, India needs to commit to the modern-day prosperity of Afghanistan. It needs to take an active role in eliminating Taliban influence from the region. India has already paid a heavy price for paying only lip service to the Tibet leaders, where it did not provide any kind of arms and ammunition support to the Tibetan cause in order to not antagonize the Chinese Communist Party.
India does not necessarily need to plant its boots to eliminate the Taliban. Taliban needs to be destroyed and eliminated from the region by empowering the Afghani civilian army by other means too. The brave Afghan national army is a force to reckon with as they are 180,000 strong and need just a backing to eliminate the Taliban. Several anti-Taliban militias have propped up recently to fight them, other than them the vast majority of common people do not want the Taliban imposing its barbarism. Indian support for these militias can prove to be a game-changer in their fight against the Taliban.
Recently, the Afghani government has requested India to provide military support in terms of Airstrikes. India’s should take advantage of the Farkhor airbase in Tajikistan to provide air support to the Afghan Civilian army. India needs to talk to Russia regarding the dangers of the Pakistan-Taliban nexus to both the nations and request support from Russian air and military bases established in the neighbouring countries of Afghanistan.
Any effort by the Indian government to talk to the Taliban is not going to pay heeds as the Taliban is fundamentally an anti-India force. Recently it killed an Indian Photojournalist Danish Siddique and mutilated his body in spite of him being a Muslim, only because he was an Indian Muslim.
Pakistan already has a barbaric record of brutality against Hindus, along with the Taliban it will just eliminate any of the ‘kafirs’ in the state if not stopped.