The Doha Agreement, signed on February 29, 2020, between the United States and the Taliban, marked a significant development in the Afghan conflict.
Implications for India’s interests in Afghanistan:
- Strategic Interests: India has vital strategic interests in the future of Afghanistan, which has regional implications.
- Edge Over Pakistan: As a long-standing ally of Afghanistan, India can maintain an advantageous position in the region compared to Pakistan.
- Investment in Infrastructure: India has fostered its relationship with Afghanistan by investing in various sectors such as infrastructure, education, irrigation, and power generation. Examples include the construction of the Afghan Parliament and the Shahtoot dam near Kabul.
- Health Assistance: India has provided critical support during the COVID-19 pandemic by supplying anti-COVID vaccines to Afghanistan.
- Security Concerns: However, India’s strategic, economic, and security interests hinge on how the Afghan government manages the Taliban after the withdrawal of U.S. forces. There is a significant concern about the resurgence of terrorism in the region.
- Terrorism Threat: Anti-Indian terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) may find support and safe havens in Afghanistan.
- Taliban Influence: India needs to prevent the Taliban from becoming a pawn of Pakistan, as this would be detrimental to its interests.
- Inclusive Government: The formation of an inclusive government, representing all ethnic groups in Afghanistan, is imperative for stability.
- Russian Support: India should leverage its relationship with Russia, which has cultivated links with the Taliban, to engage with the group effectively.
- Engaging with China: India should initiate dialogue with China to find a political settlement for lasting stability in Afghanistan.
- Engaging with the Taliban: Direct engagement with the Taliban is crucial for securing guarantees for continued development assistance and exploring the possibility of the Taliban distancing itself from Pakistan.
- Multilateral Approach: India should utilize multilateral organizations like the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) to address the Afghan issue and promote regional stability.
India must adapt its policies towards Afghanistan to safeguard its interests and respond to the evolving power dynamics in the region.
Effective engagement, regional cooperation, and a focus on inclusive governance are essential elements of India’s strategy in Afghanistan’s post-U.S. withdrawal landscape.