India has been tacitly supporting the US in its endeavour to install democracy in Afghanistan. With those efforts having failed, India is now faced with the prospect of dealing with the Taliban all on its own. India does not have significant ties or communication channels with the Taliban. In terms of security, the Taliban poses a challenge to India. It is no secret that Pakistan’s Haqqani Network and the Taliban are collaborators. With the Taliban growing even stronger, and Pakistan’s ISI having good ties with it, India definitely needs to be on the lookout for any misadventures.
Taliban has no international standing, especially in the West. It is a long time before the West recognises the Taliban. Till then, the Taliban needs to survive, and it cannot do so if the world refuses to grant it legitimacy. Now that the Taliban has usurped power in Afghanistan, the regional realities have changed. Yet another Islamic emirate has been erected. China and Pakistan are oozing with happiness. They both believe the Taliban will now pose a serious challenge to India. But is that really the case? Is the Taliban so immature that it will work against Indian interests only to get thrashed, much like Pakistan has gotten in every war, and China got last year at the Galwan valley?
We think not. Today, the Taliban desperately wants to fit in. If it wants to run the government in Afghanistan, it needs to have international standing. It needs to have nations which are at least open to recognising it, and engaging in trade and economic activities with Afghanistan. By poking India in the eye, none of that is possible. Currently, India faces problems on the Western front with Pakistan, in Kashmir – again, with Pakistan, and across the Indo-Tibetan border in North and Northeast, with China.
India technically shares a border with Afghanistan via Gilgit-Baltistan, which is under the illegal occupation of Pakistan. Pakistan definitely thinks that the Taliban will help it against India in Kashmir. However, the Taliban seems to be in an overdrive to fix its image. The organisation knows it has a disastrous reputation around the world, and that winning Afghanistan with that reputation and governing it are two entirely different things. So, it cannot and does not want to antagonise India. The Taliban knows how India has broken Pakistan’s jaws on umpteen occasions. India has even dismembered Pakistan in the past. As such, the Taliban does not wish to be yet another punching bag for India in the region, now that even China has joined the list.
For India, status quo will be maintained. Of course, for so long, the Taliban used to keep Pakistan busy from its end. Now that the Taliban is in power, that might not be the case – although the Taliban might very well backstab Islamabad. However, Pakistan’s dreams of diverting Talib jihadis to Kashmir are definitely not going to be fulfilled. The Taliban knows Pakistan is a spent force. Pakistan was at its highest in the 90s – in the times of Clinton. Thereafter, Pakistan’s stature and importance has witnessed a steep nosedive. The issue really is that Pakistan still lives in the 90s, and thinks the United States attaches a great level of importance to it, when that is simply not the case.
With the Afghanistan war over for Washington, the US could not care less about Pakistan. Now, Islamabad has become a non-entity for the United States. Pakistan thought it would expand its influence manifold into Central Asia using the Taliban, and that too is not going to happen. If Taliban allows the same, Russia will come down hard on it. Moscow has already warned the Taliban that any future recognition of the Islamic Emirate will depend solely on the organisation’s behaviour. The Taliban, therefore, cannot infuriate India and Russia at the same time.
China has some devious plans for itself, which it hopes the Taliban will help achieve. It plans for a BRI push in Central Asia and protection for CPEC in Pakistan. China’s sole motive viz., Pakistan is the capture of Gwadar Port. Besides that, Pakistan has no utility for China. But again, Taliban engaging in such activities will be viewed negatively by both India and Russia. And the Taliban currently is not in a position to earn the fury of New Delhi and Moscow.
For India, therefore, not much changes. Of course, New Delhi must be on the alert, but the Taliban is not going to try its luck with India.